Worth School choir gets ready to sing for the Pope

Former Worth School pupil and choir member Mark Spyropoulos with the Schola at Worth School after becoming the first Englishman since the Reformation to hold a contract with the Sistine Chapel Choir - picture submitted
Former Worth School pupil and choir member Mark Spyropoulos with the Schola at Worth School after becoming the first Englishman since the Reformation to hold a contract with the Sistine Chapel Choir - picture submitted

The choir at Worth School will have the ‘remarkable experience’ of singing for the Pope in April.

After one of the choir’s former pupils was contracted to sing with the Sistine Chapel choir, the singers have been invited to the Papal mass at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Michael Oakley has been director of music at Worth since 1992 will be taking them to the home of the Roman Catholic Church.

Although he has had the privilege of taking the choir to trips to Dublin, Prague, Budapest, America and Tokyo, but not to the Vatican with the Pope present.

He said: “The whole experience will be quite remarkable.

“If we manage to actually meet the Pope, which is not a foregone conclusion – it depends what other things are happening in his life at that moment - that would be a unique experience.

“(It’s) the sort of experience that can affect the individuals involved in a most special way.

“It is possible to sing in St Peter’s for a mass – the Worth choir did this in 1997, though this is not with the Pope there.

“Papal masses are very difficult to get an invite to, so this is something of a rare honour.

“We sang in St Peter’s in 1997 as part of a choir tour to Rome but not in front of the Pope. When we visited Rome in 1997 the choir was all male, so we now benefit from a selection of boys and girls in the choir producing a much rounder sound.

“It’s not a question of one being ‘better’ than the other, but rather a mix of the sounds giving a richer tone.”

The historic visit came about after former student Mark Spyropolous became the first Englishman since the Reformation to get a contract to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir.

He has kept in touch over the years visiting to sing with them at Worth Abbey and more recently run workshops with them.

When he invited Michael to a joint concert of the Chapel Choir and the choir at New College Oxford, he had the chance to meet the Chapel’s director of music.

Father-of-two Michael added: “For a Catholic Benedictine school, the Vatican is a dream destination, but the excitement seems to be just as great for our students of other denominations.”

The students are just as excited about the trip.

Annabelle Jones, 17 from Northgate has been in the choir from two years. She said: “I’m most looking forward to being able to sing at the centre of the Catholic Church as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to sing in such a prestigious place.

Pound Hill Year 11 student Eli Barrott, has been a member of the choir since 2011.

He added: “I’m most looking forward to singing in a place of such religious significance with a wealth of history and tradition. It’s very much a once in a lifetime opportunity.”