Hidden from small

Playing for a Pope: The Music and the Meaning

August 24, 2015

It’s been a busy summer for The Philadelphia Orchestra: a triumphant tour of Europe, several Neighborhood Concerts, and dazzling series at the Mann Center, the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, and in Saratoga. Now, with a new season practically upon us, Yannick and the Philadelphians are gearing up for yet another peak musical experience: performing for Pope Francis, as part of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next month.

Yannick and the Orchestra will be joined by international superstars Andrea Bocelli and Juanes in a concert on the Parkway on Saturday, September 26, and he’ll conduct the Orchestra during the Papal Mass the following afternoon.

The Papal Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Philadelphia in 1979.

Getting ready for the Mass has been a “fascinating process,” says Yannick, “and it’s all being put together quickly; but it’s very well prepared!”

While he doesn’t want to give away everything about the music they’ll be playing for the Mass, saying it will be from various composers and eras, Yannick does promise there will be Mozart, “because this Pope Francis loves Mozart!”

The Orchestra will be performing most of the music for the Mass, but there will be selections for organ and numerous choirs, representing different parts of the Philadelphia community. “Having choirs composed of people from the entire Diocese of Philadelphia is in its way really significant, because that’s part of what we do with the Orchestra: connect with the entire community.”

This isn’t just a musical experience for Yannick.

“When I was nine years old, there was a papal visit in Montreal with John Paul II, and I attended the Mass there, which was the same way it will be in Philadelphia: outdoors, with millions of people. Growing up with music in the context of religion was always very important to me, so therefore the opportunity of being involved this way with my Orchestra now is something that obviously happens only once in a lifetime. It’s an honor for all of us, but of course, for myself, growing up as Catholic it resonates even more personally.”

Yannick approaches this monumental musical undertaking with his usual relish. “The excitement is building up!”

The Orchestra’s participation in the Festival of Families concert on September 26 and the Papal Mass on September 27 has been made possible through the generous support of the Maguire Foundation, Harry and Kay Halloran, Chris Donahue/Federated, the Connelly Foundation, Andrew Lesko, Thomas Ajamie, Christian and Adrianna Henkels Fund/Schwab Charitable, Jeremiah and Kathleen O’Grady, Ed Kicak, and Vincent Roberti, in addition to an extraordinary partnership with Senator Robert P. Casey and the advocacy of Senator Pat Toomey and Congressman Brendan Boyle.