ETTRICK – Virginia State University’s Gospel Chorale leaves Thursday for a month-long European tour, and among the people waiting to hear them sing could be Pope Francis.
The chorale is part of the line-up for the “Concerto di Natale,” the annual holiday concert hosted by the Vatican. This year’s concert includes a cast of mostly European singers and musicians from all genres, but there are some scheduled artists recognizable to American audiences such as Christopher Cross and Joss Stone.
The concert is scheduled for Dec. 16 at the Auditorium Conciliazione in Rome. Traditionally, popes have attended the concert, but it was not immediately clear if the 86-year-old pontiff, who has been ailing lately, will be at the performance.
That uncertainty, however, is not dampening the spirit of the chorale.
“I am extremely proud and excited to embark upon this tour journey with my beloved VSUGC family,” chorale director Perry Evans II said in a statement released by the university. “I am humbled to lead such an amazing group of students whose hard work and commitment will be greatly appreciated by those who come from all over Europe to witness their awesome talents.”
It will be the chorale’s 10th trip to Europe since 1998. During previous visits, the group performed for Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
The trip is being sponsored by Arte Viva Associazione Culturale, a Milan-based group focused on “spreading the culture and value of great music,” according to its website.
In addition to the Christmas concert in Rome, the VSUGC will be making stops throughout Italy, Switzerland and Hungary. Another tour highlight will be the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in late December in Orvieto, about 75 miles north of Rome.
The chorale previously performed at Umbria in 2019, its last visit to Europe.
The group will return to the U.S. Jan. 3.
Bill Atkinson (he/him/his) is an award-winning journalist who covers breaking news, government and politics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on X (formerly known as Twitter) at @BAtkinson_PI.