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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 November, 2003, 17:09 GMT
Orchestra to make Vatican history
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II is celebrating 25 years as pontiff
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is to become the first US orchestra to play for a Pope in the Vatican, it has been announced.

The performance, on 17 January, is the brainchild of the orchestra's conductor Gilbert Levine.

He has already conducted performances by European orchestras at the Vatican.

The concert, featuring a performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, will recognise the interfaith efforts of Pope John Paul II, said the orchestra.

Mr Levine insisted on an American orchestra playing on the occasion, believing the country represented better than any other Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

He also said the US embodies a society of tolerance.

Prominent US composer John Harbison has been commissioned to write a choral work based on text from Genesis to open the concert programme.

Pittsburgh Symphony board chairman Richard Simmons said: "This announcement has historical significance for not only the Pittsburgh Symphony, but the entire country. The Pittsburgh Symphony is honoured to be the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican for the Pope."

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