Utah’s Madeleine Choir School returns for tour including singing for Pope Francis

Feb 7, 2023, 1:57 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — The members of the Madeleine Choir School recently returned from their first international tour in five years. And the highlight was singing at a Mass for Pope Francis.

For any faithful Catholic, being in St. Peter’s Basilica at The Vatican can be a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.

But the singers of the Madeleine Choir School had an incredible moment. They performed for the Epiphany Mass with Pope Francis. Lucy Fowler, is a 7th grader and this is her third year in the choir.

“I was just so star-struck and it was just so surreal that I was actually in his presence.”

The choir was positioned at the Papal Altar on January 6th for a celebration that ends the Christmas season and commemorates the Magi or Three Wise Men.

And the Pontiff waved to them.

Charles Holl is marking his fourth year in the choir as an 8th grader.

“Knowing that I’m so close and get to perform for him, it was really touching that we had the experience to do this and the privilege,” Holl said.

“On these international tours, the singers represent the Madeleine Choir School but they are also ambassadors for our state.

Gov. Spencer Cox sent a statement of support:

This is an opportunity to become familiar with other cultures and to share your talents throughout the world.

Melanie Malinka, Madeleine Choir Director for more than 20 years, acknowledged the remarkable moment with the Pope and says the young people do understand their role.

“Afterwards it makes them quite proud of their accomplishments and seeing how they can make their state proud and take their music to new places,” Malinka said.

Some of the parents traveled with the choir. Shannon Baker said her son, Ben, and his classmates will benefit beyond these concerts.

“They are world travelers. They aren’t scared to be in a country where everyone speaks a different language because of this,” she said. “They’re very open to different cultures, different experiences because they got to experience it on this tour.”

These young people, 5th through 8th graders, spend many hours a week learning very challenging liturgical music. And this was their first tour right after the Christmas Masses and concerts. The good news – they were very well-acquainted with the music – the tough part – they were already a bit exhausted!

Noah Nix, is also in the 8th grade and with the choir in his fourth years now. “We have months before rehearsing and practicing the music and sometimes it’s really hard… but it all builds up to this experience that’s just amazing to be a part of. This trip will stay close to my heart.”

The school’s founder, Gregory Glenn, took the model from English choir schools and hoped and prayed it would work in Utah. He watched the faces in the audiences during this concert tour of Italy. Some wondered if these children could really perform this music. “But then they do and that kind of shock really awakens the Spirit and brings joy and, in some cases, comfort.”

This experience, they all say, that will stay with them always.

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Utah’s Madeleine Choir School returns for tour including singing for Pope Francis