The Festival Corale Internazionale di Roma has become a seasoned classic in Italy’s historic capital.
Taking place annually in June, the event features a major choral performance in one of Rome’s most historic basilicas, Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva, and is punctuated by a Mass and choral participation in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. With the exception of a break in 2010, maestro Z. Randall Stroope has served as the festival’s Conductor and Artistic Director since its inception in 2009. Dr. Stroope is one of the world’s foremost composers, with more than 140 works published, and is a highly-active and sought-after conductor and lecturer. He is the Director of Choral and Vocal Activities at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where he conducts the Concert Chorale and Chamber Choir, and coordinates the undergraduate and graduate choral conducting program at the University.
In 2009, I was first invited to be the featured artistic director for this festival in Rome, which brought together over 150 singers from around the United States and Canada. During that festival, I was impressed by the expertise demonstrated by my friends at Music Celebrations International to assure that every musical experience was of the highest quality – the venues were stunning and the audiences were large and enthusiastic. – Z. Randall Stroope
On arrival in Rome, participating singers are exposed to to three days of eating, mingling, and rehearsing with one another under Dr. Stroope’s direction. Explorations of Imperial Rome, featuring visits to the Roman Forum and Colosseum, as well as Religious Rome, highlighted by a tour of Vatican City, are interspersed with the rehearsals. On the third day, after enjoying a guided tour via whisper system through the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, all festival participants join together to participate and sing in a late afternoon Mass in the glorious St. Peter’s Basilica – the largest of all Catholic churches in the world.
My personal highlight was the “moment” of having just the choir ushered beyond the barricade at St. Peter’s Basilica before the mass. It gave me goose bumps to watch my students proudly walking back behind the incredible art work and structure of the Basilica to go and sing in the most historic church in the world. It was surreal. – Joanna Hart, Director, The Bosque School Choir
Located near the Pantheon, the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva is an extraordinary Gothic masterpiece that features some of the most impressive displays of Italian art. Near the high alter is Michelangelo’s Cristo della Minerva, a sculpted depiction of Jesus carrying the cross. Also near the altar are two superb frescoes by the 15th-century Florentine artist, Filippino Lippi. The soaring vaulted ceiling is painted a rich, dark blue with gilded stars, symbolizing the sky and heaven.
Known as one of the most impressive spaces in Rome for the voice, Andrea Bocelli selected the basilica for his PBS millennium broadcast in December 1999 because of its tremendous acoustic and beauty.
By far this has been the best performing experience we have ever had! Large audiences, beautiful venue, love Randall Stroope!!! Life changing! – Carmelle Atkins, Director, Dearborn High School Choir
The basilica derives its name from Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, and resides over the site where an ancient temple was erected in her honor. It serves as the resting place for many remarkable figures of history, including Saint Catherine of Siena, whose body lies beneath the main altar – though her head remains in Siena – the Venetian sculptor Andrea Bregno, the Italian Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, the Humanist Cardinal Pietro Bembo, and Popes Urban VII, Paul IV, Leo X, and Clement VII.
As an extra bonus for choir directors, each year a free Director Preview Tour takes place during the festival dates, so that anyone interested in taking the choirs they lead to the festival the following year may get a year-in-advance glimpse of what to expect. Choirs are now being accepted to register for the festival. Visit the festival website to learn how to join this once-in-a-lifetime experience.