About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“Church officials frequently asked Tomás Luis de Victoria for his opinion on cathedral appointments because of his fame and knowledge. He was faithful to his position as convent organist even after his professional debut as an organist, and never accepted any extra pay for being a chapelmaster. Held in great esteem, his contract allowed him frequent travel away from the convent, and he attended Palestrina's funeral (in Rome) in 1594.”
— Dr. Robert Stevenson, 1961 (mod.)

60 Minutes • “The Pope's Choir” (Sistine Chapel)
published 21 December 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

WONDERFUL CHORAL CONDUCTOR in Los Angeles, Mr. Pete Avendaño, recently posted about a segment on 60 MINUTES featuring the Pope’s Choir. At the bottom of this article, I provide a link to the complete video (12 minutes in duration).

The video is really spectacular, even riveting.

However, I do feel a few defects are present.

The video sharply condemns the choir’s previous directors:

Condemnation like this is a dangerous game. 1 For example, several clips they showed (from the current choir) are not immaculate. Furthermore, I suspect many professional conductors would condemn the current conductor’s wild motions and posture wherein his face appears “glued” to the score. It might have been better to simply focus on the positive. On the other hand, the producers of 60 MINUTES most likely insisted upon drama…

I really hope this sweet little boy doesn’t get in trouble for what he says about Pope Francis:

I know Pope Francis used to attend the opera, growing up. At the same time, I think he’s mentioned somewhere his singing is terrible.

The Pope’s Choir is quite selective:

I think it’s wonderful to have a selective choir—I truly do. At the same time, I believe the only way authentic sacred music will survive is if we take it “to the layman.” My choir in Los Angeles has very few members who read music, but they do a phenomenal job. I admit it’s much easier to conduct a group of professionally trained singers. I admit that teaching Catholics with scant liturgical music training has unique frustrations. But it’s so rewarding! And I truly believe that consigning authentic sacred music to “specialists” is the wrong way to go.

You can watch the full video at this link, but be careful—there are some inappropriate commercials not suited for young children.


1   Perhaps the producers felt safe because the choir did have such a poor reputation. A friend of mine was very highly placed in Rome, and I’ll never forget his words to me in 2004: “The Sistine choir is the scandal of Christendom. The group consists entirely of ringers from the opera!”