The Glen Cove High School Select Chorale, which has performed at the White House, is among 10 student choirs nationwide invited to perform at a papal Mass at the Vatican in January, district officials and tour organizers said Thursday.
The group's planned seven-day trip to Italy is slated to culminate in a Jan. 6 performance in St. Peter's Basilica with the Sistine Chapel Choir at a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, they said.
It is described as the first-ever Children's Festival for Epiphany during the Feast of the Epiphany, which principally celebrates the visit of the Magi to the Christ child.
"I have always wanted to go to Italy and sing. That is where it all started," said Ed Norris, the chorale's director. "It is one of those things you hope for, but you never know if it will happen."
The 45-member chorale's tour is to include three other performances in Italy and run from Jan. 1 to 8. The trip will cost an estimated $140,000, and the Glen Cove Music Booster Club is soliciting donations via PayPal and is planning fundraisers.
The trip is being organized by Jericho-based Peter's Way Tours, which has arranged performance tours and pilgrimages for more than 30 years.
About 400 students in the 10 choirs will join the Sistine Chapel Choir in singing a Gregorian chant, conducted by the maestro of that famed group, tour company chief executive Peter Bahou said.
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 other ceremonies. Bahou reached out to choirs nationally, and Glen Cove was among those that accepted. A choir from St. Barnabas High School in the Bronx is among those invited.
Bahou said the invitation is unusual, as outside groups are rarely invited to participate in this event. "To bring in the choirs, this is a very big deal," he said.
The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for details.
The Glen Cove chorale also plans to give performances at two churches in Rome -- the Church of San Lorenzo and the Church of Saint Ignatius -- and is scheduled to perform at a regularly scheduled Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
It won't be the first time the group has sung in a historic setting. The chorale performed Dec. 13 at the White House, and President Barack Obama dropped by to say hello. The president shook hands with every member, school officials said.
The chorale was chosen to perform holiday classics after submitting an application last year to White House officials.
High school junior Samantha Filippone, 16, was among those singers.
"That was also amazing and I didn't think anything could top that, but I guess going to Italy is going to top that," she said.With Bart Jones