Top of the popes: first CD ever recorded in Sistine Chapel

Cantate Domino, album of Renaissance music sung by Sistine Chapel Choir, takes advantage of the extraordinary acoustics of the sacred jewel at heart of the Vatican

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2015, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2015, 9:58pm

Pope Francis has, for the first time, allowed his choir to be recorded at the historical site of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Cantate Domino, to be released worldwide by Deutsche Grammophon on September 25, will capture the sounds of the venue’s “extraordinary” acoustics, according to the record label. It includes music written by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus and Tomás Luis de Victoria during the Renaissance for the Sistine Chapel Choir, one of the world’s oldest choirs. There are also two pieces of Gregorian chant and a world premiere recording of the original version of Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere.

For the recording, Deutsche Grammophon constructed a studio within the Chapel, with the mixing desk placed in an ante-chamber. Producer Anna Barry describes the project as an “overwhelming privilege” to be among Michelangelo’s frescoes in the building that is home to the papal conclaves.

The Sistine Chapel Choir is made up of 20 adult singers and 30 boy choristers. It is directed by Massimo Palombella, who was appointed to the position five years ago by Pope Benedict XVI. He says the music – 16 tracks altogether – was created for papal celebrations in the Sistine Chapel by composers who wrote specifically for its choir.

“After an intensive period of study and scholarship of sacred music during the Renaissance, we have arrived at the point of making the first commercial recording in this remarkable building. It is my hope that these works will touch millions of listeners worldwide, and connect them to the historical culture and deep spirituality of the Catholic Church,” says Palombella.

The Sistine Chapel was consecrated in 1483 and has been home to the papal choir ever since. Pope Francis will receive the first copy of the recording, according to the record label, ahead of his visit to the US.

British newspaper The Independent suggests the Vatican is set to vie for the top spot in the UK charts this Christmas.