Saturday, March 30, 2013

Retrospective on the Benedict and Music

I had missed this good story on NPR:

After tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will experience that bittersweet relief felt by millions of less lofty workers worldwide — retirement. And leaving the top spot in the Catholic Church, at least in theory, will afford the pope emeritus time to indulge in one of his great passions, music.

Music and popes have a long association. Pope Gregory I, from the 6th century, is often credited (slightly inaccurately, as it turns out) with helping shape Western plainchant, which still bares his name today as Gregorian chant. And there's Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose passion for music included hiring his own musical advisor and cultivating chummy relations with such Polish composers as Henryk Górecki and Krzysztof Penderecki.

Benedict's ear for music is something of a family trait. As a youngster, Joseph Ratzinger played the harmonium with his brother — their parents believing it was practical stepping stone to the organ. Joseph also practiced piano, an instrument he still plays today. But it was older brother Georg who took full advantage of that early preparation. While on track for the priesthood himself, Georg also studied music. For 30 years he served as the kapellmeister of St. Peter's Cathedral in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, home of the renowned Regensburger Domspatzen choir. And in November, at a private Sistine Chapel concert, Benedict attended a performance of his brother's own choral composition Missa Anno Santo.

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