At 5.45am on Monday 24th October the Schola Cantorum of Bishop Vaughan Catholic Comprehensive School Swansea boarded a coach for Heathrow Airport and the start of their long awaited Choral pilgrimage to the Eternal City. 31 choristers aged between 12 and 18, four members of staff, organist Richard Scothon and chaplain [and extra tenor] Father Paul Brophy with Luke Spencer our director of music formed the group.
Our first day saw us at the Coliseum, San Clemente and St. John Lateran Basilica [the cathedral of Rome]. Spontaneasouly bursting into song in the cathedral attracted a huge and appreciative crowd and a stern look from a security guard as a mass was about to begin. That evening we gave a recital of liturgical music in the American Episcopalian church of St. Paul inside the Walls. The next day we rose at 6am to make our way to the Vatican to attend the Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square. Even the pouring rain did not deter us and when our name was called out the square echoed to the overjoyed voices of the choir.
The highlight of our visit was singing for mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to a congregation of over 200. Music by Mozart, Palestrina and Arcadelt. After Mass I led the choristers to the statue of St. Peter and stood by and watched 31 youngsters deep in prayer and adoration. It was a humbling and moving sight. Then we went down to see Michelangelo’s Pieta. I shall never forget the looks on their faces before this truly supernatural sculpture. Later, outside on the loggia, we gathered for a group photo and more spontaneous singing this time ‘Guide me, O thou great Redeemer’ and ‘Calon Lan’; our singing drew the crowds and echoed again around St. Peter’s Square. Then it was off to supper together, a glass or two of wine for the staff, and for us all a well-earned rest. I was truly impressed by the dedication of the staff and the unwavering commitment of these young singers who entered fully into the notion of our choral pilgrimage and will never forget their experiences. Menevia can be truly proud of her musical sons and daughters. Arrividerci Roma!
Father Paul Brophy MA