DUBAI: A multinational 120-strong choir has been pulled together using the best singers the Catholic church in the UAE has to offer in preparation for Tuesday’s historic papal mass.
Pope Francis will lead the mass at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi, before a congregation of 135,000 worshippers.
Choir leaders from the country’s various churches were approached and asked to put forward their strongest vocalists who were then sent to the auditions where they were asked to carry out a series of voice tests.
Among them are Filipinos, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Armenians, French, Italians, and others.
“True to the ‘melting pot’ image of the UAE, the papal choir will represent diverse nationalities residing in this country,” Father Jean-Laurent Marie, head of the papal choir committee, said.
The choir will be accompanied by an organ played by cathedral organist Paul Griffiths, better known in the UAE as CEO of Dubai Airports, as well as a ten-member brass ensemble.
“The choir is making a very good sound,” Griffiths told Arab News, upon hearing the group for the first time.
“It’s a really lovely thing when you’re playing the organ with a really good choir. Because then you feel you can really make a difference by supporting them, and putting a really good sound underneath,” Griffiths, who has been accompanying choirs for years, said.
Joy Santos, a Filipino music teacher based in Dubai, will be conducting the choir on Feb. 5.
“I’m so proud and humble to serve for the pope’s mass,” Santos said, adding how she felt she was “on cloud nine” upon being told of the “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
A total of 17 hymns will be sung at the mass, including one in Arabic, which was a challenge, as majority of the choir members are non-Arabic speakers.
It is the first time a Catholic pope is visiting the Gulf region.