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Organist of the Pope: privileged witness to unique moments

2014-01-31

Even magnificent basilicas like St. Mary Major in Rome would feel empty without this music. For almost 30 years Juan Paradell-Solé has played the organ in all the ceremonies inside this church, in a privileged spot close to the mosaics of the apse.

But the Vatican also needs music, and since 2011 this Spanish organist plays in all the ceremonies that the Pope presides. It's the first time in history that the Sistine Chapel Choir, the Pope's private choir, has an official organist.

He soon grasped that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI took very seriously the music in his ceremonies.

JUAN PARADELL-SOLÉ
Organist, Sistine Chapel Choir
"He would chose or suggest the music he would like to be played or sung. And obviously, if he said he wanted that piece or some other one, we would play it. He increased the use of Gregorian chant and the use of multiple melodies in music.”

His post also gives him the chance of witnessing historical moments. If he had to choose one, it would be when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.

JUAN PARADELL-SOLÉ
Organist, Sistine Chapel Choir
"I was there, I was playing the organ in the ceremony where Benedict XVI resigned, precisely. In that moment no one could believe it. No one could believe his words, what he was saying: did he really say that? He resigned? Is that possible?"

And then Pope Francis arrived. Juan Paradell also played in the conclave that choose Jorge Mario Bergoglio as successor of Peter.

JUAN PARADELL-SOLÉ
Organist, Sistine Chapel Choir
"Even though it doesn't seem like it, Pope Francis loves music. And he also knows it very well, more than anyone could think. He knows Mozart, he likes Beethoven and is a great supporter of opera.”

After the historic resignation of a Pope and a conclave, the maestro Paradell is ready for whatever may come next. Not by chance, his hands have provided music to some of the most important moment in the recent history of the Catholic Church.


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