Vatican Institute for Sacred Music seeks to rediscover, revive musical treasures

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The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music has been producing, singing and conducting sacred music for more than 100 years. Their choir of 60 students from countless countries seeks to preserve the history contained in these ancient hymns. 

Walter Marzilli is the director of the chorus and has been there since 1991. He says that there is a special place for Sacred Music in the Catholic Church today. 

Director, The Pontifical Sacred Music singers
“We work essentially with sacred music. We look at the past to rediscover and keep alive the Sacred Music treasures that have been written in 2,000 years of history of the Church. But we also look forward, because a short time ago, we sang a concert from the past, but also incorporated present music with foreign composers.”

He says each year at least a quarter of the students leave the choir and another quarter enter, since it is a mandatory part of the university. 

Their songs encompass numerous cultures and languages, representing the singers who make up the choir, while maintaining the richness and traditions contained in these sacred songs. 

Junior Gregorian Chant Student
“I think it's very important that we keep our traditions, keep our roots of where we came from. This has been used since the early Church. We have proof of this all the way until the time of Gregory the Great who really restored the Gregorian chant when he restored the liturgy, all the way back in the 600s.”

Many of the students participating have been sent to Rome by their bishop or archbishop. They hope to restore a certain sense of beauty and tradition into their diocese when they return home. 

Choir Direction Student
“I want to return to my diocese from which I was sent, to specialize in evangelization and music. It is a very interesting topic that I'm passionate about because I can evangelize through music. It is not the same for people who attend a Mass on Sundays without singing. I think if the assembly, the people who attend mass, concentrate on the music, which accompanies the liturgy every Sunday, it is more profound and it reaches the goal of the evangelization.”

Director, The Pontifical Sacred Music singers
'Sacred music has been included in certain eras of the Church. It is important to us that the goal of sacred music is to glorify God and the sanctification of the faithful. Because when one hears beautiful music in the Church, he or she is spiritually lifted.”

Their angelic voices are heard all around Rome as they sometimes perform with the Sistine Chapel Choir, and occasionally, for the pope. Every two weeks they sing a vespers Mass, and every morning at 7:30, there is a Mass completely in song. 

It's the students way of giving back to the Church a little of the rich, Catholic tradition that has been passed on to them. 

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