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The BBC's Mark Coles
"The pope's own hits are now to be found in the bargain bins"
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Saturday, 25 March, 2000, 13:13 GMT
The Pope's musical tour
The pope has already recorded two CDs himself
By the BBC's Mark Coles

The Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus are beginning an unusual concert tour - on behalf of the Pope.

The orchestra is looking forward to the tour
The classical music-makers have been hired by John Paul II to conduct a world tour of key spiritual sites over the next few months.

It will culminate in a concert at the Vatican to celebrate the Pope's 80th birthday.

The pontiff wants the Philharmonia to get his message of religious harmony across to a wider audience.

Ecumenical music

They will perform Haydn's The Creation to specially invited, mixed-faith audiences.

The music has been chosen deliberately: one of the great oratorios of western classical music, Haydn's Creation is set to verses from the Book of Genesis - a text which is uniquely holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

The tour begins on Saturday at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore in the United States.

Over the next few months, there will be concerts in Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame in Paris, and a musical pilgrimage to the Holy Land where the Philharmonia will perform in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

Conductor Gilbert Levine has worked with the Pope for 11 years - ever since meeting him in Poland at the end of the 1980s, when he was artistic director of the Krakow Philharmonic.

Since then, he has been on hand to help conduct the Pope's spiritual message in musical form.

He was behind the Pope's 10th anniversary concert, devised a vigil for the youth of America and in 1994, conducted the papal concert to commemorate the holocaust.

Pope hits

The Pope is no stranger to musical ventures - he has been recorded singing and has already released a couple of music CDs.

His most recent release Abba Pater - a sort of papal bid to capture the youth market - had him rapping religious texts over pop and dance music.

According to those in the know, the Pope is no musical stick-in-the-mud.

He likes to wear Doctor Martin boots around the Vatican - has had audiences with a variety of pop stars in the past.

He persuaded Bob Dylan to sing to a Bishops' convention in Bologna.

And at the end of last year, after meeting Bono, the lead singer of the pop group U2, the Pope made off with the pop star's trademark sunglasses.

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25 Mar 00 | Middle East
Nazareth tense for Pope's visit
24 Mar 00 | Middle East
In pictures: The Pope in Galilee
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