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A 120-member choir will sing at the Papal Mass on February 5. Image Credit: Papal Choir

Dubai: A 120-member choir from nine Catholic churches in the UAE have come together to sing at the Papal Mass at the Zayed Sports Stadium on February 5.

The multinational choir will be accompanied by an organ and a 10-member brass ensemble.

The Papal Choir is composed of members selected after an audition that was attended by 283 singers representing 120 choirs from across the UAE.

Singers were selected from various nationalities for the final choir including Filipinos, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Armenians, French, Italians, Nigerians, Americans, Indonesians, Dutch and Argentinians.

“True to the ‘melting pot’ image of the UAE, the Papal Choir will represent diverse nationalities residing in this country. Due to the extremely short lead-time, we faced major challenges in putting together this choir,” said Fr. Jean-Laurent Marie, Head of the Papal Choir Committee.

“One of the key selection criterion was commitment to all practices and rehearsals. As a result, only those who could spare time made it to the final list. However, we are happy with the final selection.”

Even non-Catholics were given a chance to participate, including Paul Griffiths. A trained Cathedral Organist from the Anglican Church and also the CEO of Dubai Airports, Griffiths will be leading the musicians playing the organ.

Some of the choir members are highly accomplished singers in various choral groups, while a few have been selected for a BBC Production of a Beethoven symphony.

The theme of the UAE Papal Visit, ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ will resound throughout Zayed Sports City when the voices bring St Francis of Assisi’s hymn to life.

Fr Michael O’Sullivan, Coordinator of UAE Papal Visit, also a trained classical singer enthusiastically said he is proud of the way in which the choir is shaping up.

“The very first practice came as real music to the ears. I can already imagine how magnificent it will sound on the day of the actual Papal Mass which will be broadcast all over the world,” F. O’Sullivan said.

Filipina conductress Joy Santos will lead the UAE Papal Choir. She has led the Grand Choir for special occasions like priests’ ordination, Year of Mercy Mass, and other solemn events at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Dubai.

Santos said she is ecstatic and honoured to have been given the chance to lead the Papal Choir.

“I never imagined I would lead a choir for a Papal Mass, more so here in the UAE, a home away from home. I consider it both an honour and a blessing,” Santos said.

French expatriate Lucia Bonnard too is pleasantly surprised to have been chosen to sing at the Papal Mass.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be in a Papal Mass choir. I visited the Vatican three times, but this is a big surprise and that too happening right here in the UAE,” Bonnard said.