Pope prays to musical accompaniment in new CD

AP News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2009 3:47 PM

Pope Benedict XVI sings and prays along to a mix of modern music and ancient church chants in a new album presented Tuesday before its release at the end of the month.

The album, entitled "Alma Mater _ Music from the Vatican," includes eight original pieces of contemporary music, interwoven with Gregorian chants and the pope's voice.

Benedict sings a hymn and recites prayers to the Virgin Mary in various languages, including Italian, French and Latin.

Part of the proceeds will go to fund music education for underprivileged children throughout the world, Colin Barlow, president of Geffen Records in Britain, said at a presentation of the album at Rome's city hall on Capitol hill.

The pope's voice was not recorded specifically for the project. The soundbites were given to record label Geffen/Universal by Vatican Radio, which owns the rights, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman and head of the radio station.

"The pope is open to new ways of evangelization ... to experiment with new ways to transmit a spiritual message that the world greatly needs," he said.

There are nearly 10 minutes of the pope's voice in the 49-minute album.

The composers involved came from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Simon Boswell, who said he is agnostic, said the album was "a fantastic inspiration that had a profound effect on me."

Benedict is accompanied by the Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, recorded in St. Peter's Basilica and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which recorded in London at the Abbey Road studios. The three tracks were then mixed in a studio outside Rome to produce the album.

The German-born Benedict comes from a music-loving family and plays the piano. Mozart and Bach are among his favorite composers.

Benedict is not the first pope to have his creative efforts captured on record.

Some of the composers and producers on the project had worked on a similar 1999 album entitled "Abba Pater" (the word "Father" in Hebrew and Latin), which featured the voice of Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

Last year tenor Placido Domingo recorded an album of poems by the late John Paul. Entitled 'Infinite Love,' it put to music composed by the tenor's son some of the late pope's literary efforts during his years as a priest and then as a bishop in Poland, as well as during his 26 years as pope.

The "Alma Mater" album is not a Vatican initiative but was arranged by Multimedia San Paolo, an Italian Catholic media group.

It is due for release worldwide Nov. 30, in time for Christmas.