The award-winning Glen Cove High School Select Chorale, which performed for President Barack Obama at the White House two years ago, is rehearsing for its international debut next month — singing alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir during a Mass led by Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The 43-member group and about 400 other students from across the country will join the famous chapel choir in St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6 during the first-ever Children’s Choir Festival For Epiphany.
“It’s always been a dream to go,” said Edward P. Norris III, director of choral music at Glen Cove High School. “And to actually be invited to do it is unreal. And to put the plan into motion, and the parents were behind it and the community was behind it and the school district too. And to be leaving in two weeks is surreal.”
The invitation to children’s groups came last year from the Sistine Chapel Choir, which sings for papal Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica and at other ceremonies.
The Glen Cove group is scheduled to arrive in Rome on New Year’s Day. During the seven-day trip, they will present an hourlong concert and sing during Mass at the Church of San Lorenzo in Rome and perform twice at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
“We will feature music from the 14th and 15th centuries right up through a piece that was written in 2012,” Norris said. “We have a huge array of music — American music, African folk songs . . . traditional music. We are doing a little bit of everything when we go there.”
On Jan. 7, the day before departing for the United States, the chorale will perform solo at the 5 p.m. Solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope is not scheduled to attend that service.
The trip is being organized by Peter’s Way Tours, a Jericho-based business that has arranged performance tours and pilgrimages for more than 30 years.
“Most of our choirs are Roman Catholic and are from churches. Glen Cove is a secular high school and I am impressed with their programs. We submitted it to the Vatican and they were very well-accepted, ” said Peter Bahou, president of Peter’s Way and one of those who helped facilitate the trip.
Students from St. Barnabas High School in the Bronx are the other New York group participating in the children’s choir festival.
A Vatican representative did not return an email requesting comment.
The Glen Cove High School group, comprising students in grades 10-12, has been rehearsing and raising funds since June when they learned that going to Italy was possible. They raised $40,000 to be split among the students, whose families then made up the difference. The trip is costing about $2,900 per person. Students must audition for the chorale.
Jessica Bellomo, 16, a junior, said she has traveled to Sicily, from whence family members immigrated years ago. But she has never been to Rome or to the Vatican, and is looking forward to performing with the Sistine Chapel Choir.
“I’ll probably be nervous, because they are so professional and we are just a high school. But I think we will show them that we have some of the skills they have too,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard . . . We have learned a lot of repertoire that we have been practicing.”