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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 18:01 GMT
Late Pope becomes a singing star
By Christopher Landau
PM programme, BBC Radio 4

Pope John Paul II
John Paul II died in April 2005

Former Pope John Paul II was known for many things, but until now, not for being the star of a music video.

That's set to change as the Vatican launches a DVD designed to hasten his path to sainthood.

And if you were expecting the sounds of traditional Catholic music, think again. The Church employed Simon Boswell, a non-Catholic British composer, to write the music.

His work normally features in Hollywood blockbusters, and he says this was a project like no other.

"It's very difficult to describe because it's not a documentary - it is a celebration of the life of John Paul II, in images which have been artistically manipulated."

Boswell has added his own music to these images, using traditional orchestral and choral sounds as well as a few contemporary idioms that are likely to raise eyebrows.

Trip-hop and "jazz trance" styles feature in the music, which also includes recordings of speeches made by John Paul II - and even some archive of the late pope singing.

'Very nervous'

St Peter's in the Vatican City
The Vatican made "one slight complaint" about the voice alteration

Boswell was given unique access to Vatican recordings of Gregorian chant and other historical material, which he has woven into his own compositions.

He says the biggest challenge surrounded the recordings of John Paul II's singing, and admits to being "very nervous about interfering with the pontiff's voice".

But he confirms he did use computer technology to improve the pope's vocal delivery.

There was "one slight complaint from the Vatican" about the extent to which the papal voice had been altered but Boswell says the Church was happy with the final product.

The process of composing material to complement images of the late pope became a surprising spiritual journey for the agnostic composer.

"I have felt very moved by doing the thing, and I've almost felt guided or watched over in a way I haven't felt before.

"I've felt privileged and an empathy towards the subject that I very often don't."

John Paul II
Many Catholics would like to see John Paul II made a saint

Asked whether he felt there were other forces at work influencing his composing, Boswell's was an enigmatic "that's quite possible".

Web poll

The DVD is titled Santo Subito - a reference to the Latin proclamation, "Make him a saint now!" which crowds chanted at John Paul II's funeral in 2005.

A website accompanies the DVD, where members of the public can vote on whether they believe John Paul II should be made a saint - and, if so, which cause he should be the patron saint for.

It is thought to be the first time internet technology has been harnessed by the Church to enable web users to express their views about a potential future saint.

The British composer whose music is central to the campaign is relaxed about his role in what some might see as Catholic propaganda - and he says that studying John Paul II's life gave him a "window into faith" that he appreciated.

"Seeing the power of his speech, and the millions and millions of people over the world mesmerised by him, I actually felt quite moved. He was saying things that any nice human being couldn't refuse."

So the non-Catholic composer Boswell offers a perhaps surprising conclusion: "I can't think of a better person to be made a saint. Why not have saints in the world?"

DVD Celebration of Pope John Paul II

Pope seeks to beatify John Paul
13 May 05 |  Europe
John Paul's last words revealed
18 Sep 05 |  Europe
Pope buried in St Peter's crypt
08 Apr 05 |  Europe


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