EDMOND — Members of a local church choir will perform in Italy this month, placing them at the epicenter of a historic moment in the Roman Catholic Church.
Fourteen members of the St. Monica Catholic Church choir will sing at churches throughout Rome and Venice as part of the 2013 Festival of Peace and Brotherhood. The group, which includes directors Melani Roewe and Marie Connolly, will be in Italy just as the College of Cardinals gathers to elect a new pope.
“We're just thrilled to death to be part of the excitement. It's palpable,” mezzo soprano Trish Kuper said, smiling.
Roewe said the trip represents a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of the group's members, who will be singing in venues they have only read about or seen in pictures.
She said the group has been raising funds and had hoped to take the trip last year. Roewe said the group did not raise enough money to go in 2012 and postponed the visit to hold spaghetti dinners, an auction and garage sale in order to come up with the necessary funds.
She said the group also recorded and sold a CD to raise money.
Roewe said group members sent an audition tape to the choral festival's organizers and were relieved when the event leaders agreed to allow them to be part of the 2013 festival. The group performed the selections they plan to sing at the festival at a brief concert Feb. 24 at St. Monica, 2001 N Western.
Kuper said she is both nervous and excited about performing in the Italian churches that will be festival venues.
“As a singer, the opportunity to lift your voice in all these holy places — it's an utter gift,” she said.
Now that the trip is imminent, Roewe said recent major changes at the Vatican will affect some of the choir's initial plans.
For instance, she said choir members had hoped for a papal audience, but the papal transition has effectively ruled that out. With Pope Benedict XVI's resignation now in effect, a new pope must be elected. Roewe also said the group had hoped to tour the Sistine Chapel, but it likely will be filled with the cardinals' conclave for the papal election, the successful completion of which is signaled by white smoke.
Despite these modifications resulting from the papal succession, Roewe and other choir members said timing is everything.
“It's still a historic moment,” Roewe said.
“Who knows, maybe we'll get to see the white smoke — it all depends on the conclave.”