Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Pope’s Maestro

By Sir Gilbert Levine

People who read my book, The Pope’s Maestro, often ask “What is your most vivid memory of His Holiness Pope John Paul II?” Having had the honor and privilege of working directly and personally with the Pope for 17 years, creating and performing concerts for him at the Vatican and around the world, the choice is always a very hard one.  But, being a musician, making music for John Paul, a man who believed in music’s power to move the human spirit, one such moment remains as clear today as it was when it happened eight years ago.

On January 17, 2004, I conducted the Papal Concert of Reconciliation, intended by His Holiness to bring the peoples of Abraham, as he called us, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, together in peace and better understanding.  As I led the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and four choirs, from the Pope’s beloved Krakow, from London, Ankara and Pittsburgh, in Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, I couldn’t help but look out across the vast stage of the Sala Nervi in the Vatican, into the Pope’s infinitely expressive face.

What I saw was His Holiness being drawn deeply into the story the music was telling him, actually moving with the spirit of the music. He seemed to see into its very heart and soul.  John Paul followed our performance with an intensity I had never seen before.

“Music”, the Pope told me at an audience afterwards,” can express what words cannot. It is a WAY of peace. It is a language of God”.

I hope that everyone who comes to our Peace Through Music - in the Spirit of John Paul - Chicago 2012 concert on April 23rd will share the same experience as His Holiness did that night - that our music will transport you and bring you closer to our Creator.

John Paul loved Chicago, and Chicago loves him still. Through his spirit, in your own Orchestra Hall, I hope we will all be uplifted and find the peace and brotherhood His Holiness wished for each of us. A wish that I know is shared by His Eminence Cardinal George, who has done so very much to make this concert, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of His Holiness’ Beatification, a reality for the people of Chicago - in the Spirit of John Paul.

I look forward very much to seeing you all there.

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Comments

Sunday, April 01, 2012 6:09 AM

I am writing from England – having just been to a beautiful morning mass at my local parish church in Lewes, East Sussex. I was lucky enough to see Pope John Paul from afar on his visit to the UK when I was 14 years old. Some twenty years later I had the great privilege to meet Sir Gilbert Levine when he conducted the Royal Philharmonic and London Philharmonic Orchestras, creating wonderful music, and frequently making performance history. The celebration of Peace through Music on April 23rd in Chicago will undoubtedly be a magnificent musical celebration of his Holiness’s beatification.

If you have not read The Pope’s Maestro, I urge you to do so – not just to learn more about Pope John Paul and his remarkable goodness, but also about the phenomenal collaboration between the Pope and Sir Gilbert Levine that has transformed so many lives through extraordinary music-making in honour of peace and reconciliation across the world.

Gilly B.