The International Festival of Sacred Music – a unique classical music festival, held in Rome annually, is one of the best kept secrets in the world of Classical Music.
My Personal Experience
|In 2011 I attended the 10th Festival of Sacred Music in Rome. Having attended many music Festivals I can report that this is a first class act. I can highly recommend attendance at this music festival to those who appreciate classical and or sacred music in the ancient setting of the Eternal City of Rome.
It rates with the great European classical music Festivals. In addition to the wonderful performances, attending this music Festival can be both a form of relaxing meditation and a pilgrimage of the mind.
The music festival performances are of the highest standard – conductors, programming, orchestras and musicians, choirs and soloist voices and instrumentalists are all of international standing.
The Festival is unique because of its connection with the Vatican and the Church of Rome. The International Sacred Music Festival takes place under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and the Italian State.
Funds from the recent Festivals support a number of ongoing restoration works across the basilicas of Rome – including projects at St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Lateran and in the Vatican Necropolis beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.
Images: Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra
What is it like in Rome at that time of year?
The Festival of Sacred Music is held at the end of autumn; in 2016 the music festival is from 16 to 21 November.
What is it like in Rome at that time of the year? Well it’s relatively quiet compared the visitor crowds of the summer months and therefore a good time to visit Rome. The weather is mild, usually not cold, so ideal for taking in the sights of Rome and the Vatican around your Festival programme by day and attending the performances held in the Basilicas of an evening – perfect!
Getting around Rome at this time of year is easy and the venues are conveniently accessed by public transport or reasonably priced taxi rides to central locations.
What is in store for the 2016 – 15th International Festival of Sacred Music?
The 2016 Festival of Sacred Music will include the following:
- A performance of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, KV 317 in St. Peter’s Basilica
- His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Comastri will celebrate mass followed by a performance from the Pontifical Sistine Chapel Choir
- The IlluminArt Philharmonic Orchestra and St. Peter Choir will perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in St. Paul Outside the Walls
- St. Mary Major Basilica will host the Wiener Sängerknaben, who will perform works by Mozart, Schubert, Haydn and others
- Many other performances by choirs and orchestras from the USA, Germany, Austria, Russia, Japan and Italy
Further information about performances, may be found on the Foundations website which is updated from time to time with new information and changes to the programme.
Where are the Festival performances held?
The music festival is organised by the appropriately named Fondazione Pro Musica e Arte Sacra, a foundation which has as its principal aim, the restoration of precious works of religious art housed in the Roman basilicas where the concerts take place – Papal Basilica St. Peter, Papal Basilica St. Mary Major, Papal Basilica St. Paul Outside the Walls, Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva and Basilica St. Ignatius Loyola.
The music festival is widely supported and attracts large international audiences to the Basilicas of Rome. Many attendees are from Europe and the USA, UK and Canada as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Organisation and Delivery?
My experience of attending the music festival is that it is very well organised – like most Italian events, things don’t happen to New York, Sydney or London timepieces, but they do happen, if sometimes in ‘enough’ but not ‘good time’. On occasions one needs to be a little patient working on Mediterranean time – it’s all part of the experience. Administrative organisers, the event managers and team members work with you in English. On arrival – if you have bought into the gold, silver or bronze categories your seats are well signposted. Indeed in the silver category we had our individual names on our actual seats. It’s very personally organised. By the third event people are being addressed by name.
The programs are elaborate large high quality printed guides in colour and multi-lingual. The programs are in keeping with the tenor or the occasion and the high quality of this music festival – great keepsakes and sources of background and detailed information for the new attendee.
Seating & Costs?
Seating is arranged according to the ‘donation’ – unsurprisingly.
Tickets are split into two different categories – ‘Circle of Friends’ or ‘Circle of Supporters’. Tickets purchased are valid for all performances at the Festival. Circle of Friends tickets range from €75 up to €1,000, while a Circle of Supporters ticket cost between €5,000 up to an incredible €1,000,000 per person.
We had ‘Circle of Friends’ Silver Tickets – €700 per person for the entire festival – inexpensive for what you receive. We received great seats and service at each performance. Bronze tickets would have also done the job at most of the performances.
You may not rush to donate to the Circle of Supporters categories, however if you do you will find yourself seated in the front, second or third rows respectively – with the cardinals and archbishops of the church and accompanying photo opportunities – I noticed!
| I would recommend that individuals and groups donate to the ‘Circle of Friends’ categories Friend, Big Friend, Bronze, Silver or Gold – €75, €200, €400, €700 and €1,000 respectively – entitling the individual participant to attend a number of events during the Festival.
Seating is determined by the type of ticket purchased – a Friend ticket will seat you in the back rows or in the side naves, while a Gold ticket seat can get you as close as the fourth row.
In summary, you get what you pay for as at most music festivals. I would suggest not less than Bronze tickets and go for Silver if you can stretch the budget! Each venue is quite different from the other and depending on attendances you may be able to hear but not see the performance very well if you have a Friends category ticket.
Images: Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra
Extras & Bonuses from your association with the Festival during your time in Rome!
Attendees to the Festival, will also be able to:
- Participate in an exclusive tour to the laboratories of the Fabric of the Basilica of St. Peter with an English speaking guide
- Participate in an audience with His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Comastri, Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City, Archpriest of St Peter’s and President of the Fabric of St Peter’s.
- Participate in a general audience of Pope Francis.
Tickets & Contact Details!
Ticketing and all detailed background information for the Festival of Sacred Music in Rome can be obtained by accessing the website of the Foundation www.festivalmusicaeartesacra.net
You can contact the organisers of the Festival of Sacred Music in Rome as follows – but don’t expect always that there will be an English speaker to take your call on every occasion – I prefer Post, so that it goes to the English speakers in the foundation who will answer my question and Post back an answer in a timely manner.
Fondazione pro Musica e Arte Sacra
Via Paolo VI n. 29 (Piazza S.Pietro)
00193 Roma – Italia
The writer is David Hoban, Director of Monastery Stays – www.monasterystays.com – an innovative small organisation, established to provide a superior service for people wanting an authentic experience in Italy, staying in unique, good value accommodation operated by religious Orders, offering warm hospitality to all travellers.
This article may be freely reproduced if acknowledgement is given to Monastery Stays and the website www.monasterystays.com.
For images please contact Monastery Stays for links to the Foundation website www.festivalmusicaeartesacra.net