Vatican streams first live concert from Sistine Chapel

The Vatican's Sistine Chapel, an artistic Renaissance jewel, opened up to the digital age on Sunday with the first live concert streamed over the internet from the famous sacred space.

Vatican streams first live concert from Sistine Chapel
Inside the Sistine Chapel, waiting to play. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

It was a performance of Scottish composer James MacMillan's acclaimed version of the Stabat Mater.

A British choir group The Sixteen and chamber orchestra ensemble Britten Sinfonia took to the stage against the backdrop of Michelangelo's masterpiece of The Last Judgement, while lovers of classical music from around the world tuned in to watch on the web.

The Stabat Mater is a 13th century poem most likely written by Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), but sometimes ascribed to Pope Innocent III, which portrays the Virgin Mary's suffering during Jesus Christ's death by crucifixion.

MacMillan, 58, who has composed many pieces of sacred music, was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation, which has been working since 2001 to support young artistic talent and develop the link between art and faith.

His version of Stabat Matar was heaped with praise upon its premiere at London's Barbican Centre in 2016, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, pushed for the composer to present his work at the Vatican.


Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Some 300 people filled the Sistine Chapel on Sunday evening for the concert while live video of the performance was streamed over the website of Classic FM.

As the British choir began to sing the audience there and online was reminded that the acoustics as much as the frescoes have made the chapel world famous over the centuries.

The Sistine Chapel attracts some six million visitors each year as part of the Vatican Museum, but it is also “a musical centre where composers have written for the liturgy for hundreds of years, some of the great composers of Western civilisation, Palestrina, Allegri, Josquin… And to have my music played here is a very special priviledge,” said MacMillan.

Conductor Harry Christophers added that “these great sacred places always have something special about the acoustics. The details we can hear, the resonance, is fantastic; it's so emotional.”

And for him the performance at the Sistine Chapel was the chance of a lifetime.

“These occasions, you are lucky if they appear once in a lifetime, and here we are, I can't think of anything greater.” 

READ ALSO: Ambitious theatre show brings the Sistine Chapel to life

Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

By Fanny Carrier


Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs

Damiano David, the frontman of Italy's Eurovision winners Maneskin, has passed a drug test he took on Monday to clear his name after speculation that he had snorted cocaine at the song contest's grand final.

Italian Eurovision winner tests negative for drugs
Damiano David of Maneskin performs at the Eurovision final. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

A drug test was “voluntarily undertaken earlier today by the lead singer of the band Måneskin which has returned a negative result seen by the EBU”, the European Broadcasting Union announced on Monday evening. 

“No drug use took place in the Green Room and we consider the matter closed,” the EBU said in a statement, adding that it had checked all available video footage as part of “a thorough review of the facts”.

READ ALSO: Italian Eurovision winners ‘really offended’ by accusations of drug use

David, who was shown on camera leaning over a table backstage in what some speculated could be drug use, had strongly denied the allegations. 

He said the footage showed him sweeping up some glass broken by one of his bandmates.

Måneskin with their trophy after winning the final of the 65th Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Sander Koning / ANP / AFP

There had been calls for “total transparency” from officials in France, which came a close second in the song contest, after the clip went viral following Saturday’s final in the Netherlands.

The French minister for Europe said that drug use should be grounds for disqualification, though the head of France’s public broadcasting group said they did not plan to challenge the result.

David told interviewers he was “really offended” by the speculation, which he said had marred Italy’s first Eurovision victory in 31 years.

“We are alarmed that inaccurate speculation leading to fake news has overshadowed the spirit and the outcome of the event and unfairly affected the band,” the EBU said, adding that it was looking forward to “a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in Italy next year”.