From Gospel Choirs to Irish Bagpipers

8th Christmas Concert Has a Universal Feel

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2000 (
Saturday´s eighth Christmas Concert had the air of a universal celebration.

It opened with a Christmas carol, which combined a child´s voice, gospel and Renewal in the Spirit choirs, an orchestra, a group of African percussionists, and a band of Irish bagpipers, representing all the continents, while in the background of the Paul VI Hall faces from all races, culture and tongues were projected on a screen.

It was a vibrant opening which set the tone of this traditional Christmas gathering, known as «50 Churches for Rome in 2000.» To date, the entrance fee of these concerts has made possible the construction of 39 churches; an additional 10 are under construction and 12 are in the planning stage.

The concert began half an hour late because one of the gospel choirs was caught in Roman traffic, always difficult during the Christmas season, but exacerbated by the protests against Austrian Joerg Haider´s visit to the Vatican.

The concert had some unusual aspects, such as the performance of a flamenco carol entitled «Night of Light,» by Alejandro Sanz, pop music idol of many Spanish-speaking teen-agers. Japan´s Okura Shonosuke performed a piece of the country´s very ancient art known as Noh. New Ross & District Pipe Band, a group of Irish bagpipers, performed a piece for St. Patrick´s feast day.

Italy was well represented at the concert, with groups like Gigi D´Alessio, Nek, Syria, Tosca, the Poohs and the «Ars Canto Giuseppe Verdi» children´s choir.

From the United States came the New York PSRC Gospel Choir, and the original U.S. Gospel Singers, accompanied by soprano Felicia Weathers. Other top singers included Dee Dee Bridgewater and Randy Crawford.

The audience clapped along with the singing of «Oh Happy Day,» by the New York choir, and the alternating voices of «The Voice of Maria,» performed by an unusual couple: Dionne Warwick and Piero Marras, known for his interpretation of traditional Sardinian music. Canadian performers included Bryan Adams and singer Gino Vannelli.

Asia was also represented by Indonesian singer Anggun, who sang «Still Reminds Me,» as well as «Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.» Africa made a brief appearance at the beginning with the group Sunu.

During the performances, artistic Christmas pictures and famous churches worldwide were projected in the background, as a reminder of the concert´s objective. John Paul II expressed his gratitude and imparted his apostolic blessing to the audience and television spectators.

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