Massachusetts UCC choir receives invitation to sing at the Vatican
Written by Emily Schappacher
January 6, 2014

Karen Harvey directs the UCC Norwell choir during a 2013 Christmas concert.

After a demanding round of concerts celebrating Christmas and Epiphany, members of the Sanctuary Choir at United Church of Christ Norwell in Norwell, Mass., are taking a moment to catch their breath. But the group will soon be back at it preparing for a performance at the Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra (International Festival of Sacred Music and Art) this October in Vatican City, Rome. Karen Harvey was blown away by this once-in-a-lifetime invitation to perform, and can't think of a more meaningful way to celebrate her 20th year as UCC Norwell's minister of music.

"Everybody is very excited about this trip," Harvey said. "We will be rehearsing like crazy – and working on our Latin."

The group will also be working to raise funds by hosting benefit concerts and selling copies of their CDs to get as many of the choir's 40 members, who range in age from 25 to 80, to Rome for the festival. While it's too early to tell exactly how many will be participating, Harvey hopes at least 20 people will be able to make the week-long trip Oct. 20-27. In addition to the festival performance, Harvey also plans to coordinate performances at some of the historic churches throughout Rome to truly make the most of their time in one of the world's most beautiful cities. 

The UCC Norwell choir during a rehearsal.

"In Italy, there is a church on every block," she said. "We hope to also perform at one or two of those venues." 

UCC Norwell has always had a superior choral program, which has grown even stronger in the 20 years of Harvey's ministry. For example, the choir used to put on one holiday concert per year, and now performs three throughout the season. The church also has grown from two to six different choirs to suit members of all ages, interests and skill levels. 

Aside from eating bombolinis – cream-filled Italian doughnuts that she "dreams about" – Harvey is most looking forward to the thrill of singing in the historic city of Rome with this special group of people. 

"Something happens when a group of people who know each other and love each other and sing together get out of their usual environment and travel," she said. "Being together and singing in a venue as grandiose as the Vatican, it's just kind of otherworldly. It is like, 'Wow, we have all been to the mountaintop together.' Having this very holy experience is really extraordinary and something we all will remember for the rest of our lives." 

Initiated in 2002, the International Festival of Sacred Music and Art aims to increase the public's awareness of the institutional activities of the Fondazione Pro Musica e Arte Sacra, which raises funds for the restoration of religious artifacts and buildings.


Ms. Emily Schappacher
Communications Specialist
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Ms. Connie N. Larkman
Managing Editor & News Director
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