by Michael Caruso
When Pope Francis visited Philadelphia a year ago, television enabled millions of people all over the world to watch the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Taking part in the liturgy with the Pontiff and Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput were two cantors who led the congregation in singing. One was baritone Jeffrey Chapman, who is a frequent cantor at my parish, Old St. Joseph’s Church (Jesuit) in Society Hill. The second cantor was soprano Charlene Angelini. The Fairless Hills native has just been named director of music for both the 1.5 million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its principal church, the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul.
Angelini began her musical career singing as a cantor when she was 10 years old in her own parish, St. Francis Cabrini. She continued to do so for the next 13 years. She attended West Virginia University on a full music scholarship for piano performance, but she graduated with an additional degree in voice. Since graduating, Angelini has sung or played the organ in 16 different parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, including holding the position of music director at Our Lady Help of Christians Church for 12 years and at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for two years.
“I have been singing at the Cathedral Basilica for six years as a wedding cantor,” she continued, “Sunday evening cantor, and principal cantor for all Archdiocesan events, including the ordinations of priests and deacons, the installation of Archbishop Charles Chaput, Magnificat Day at the Convention Center, and most recently both Papal Masses in 2015.”
Angelini also assisted her predecessor, John Romeri, offering instruction and coaching for other cantors throughout Greater Philadelphia and beyond.
“I formally applied for the position of music director at the Cathedral Basilica in July of this year,” she explained. “The position encompasses the entire Archdiocese.” She took up her post Aug. 29
“My responsibilities include conducting the Cathedral Choir each Sunday at Mass, overseeing the Archdiocesan and Children’s Choirs, preparing the liturgical music for each special event, weddings and funerals held at the Cathedral Basilica, as well as continued formation for liturgical musicians throughout the Archdiocese. The Cathedral Choir sings every Sunday from September through June. The Archdiocesan Choir sings a Christmas concert, a concert in May, at the Chrism Mass, and at Ordinations in the spring. The Children’s Choir sings once a month at the Basilica.”
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul hosts a series titled “Concerts at the Cathedral Basilica.” It is comprised of seven performances beginning in October of 2016 and continuing through May of 2017.
Artistic advisor Roger Wight explained, “The Cathedral Basilica is a thrilling place to hear voices. Its immense and ornately decorated space creates a truly special and unique atmosphere for choirs and vocal music, and the series was born out of a desire to share that space and experience with a wider audience.
“Artistically our goal is to present the best American and international performers,” he continued, “combined with Philadelphia’s own rich choral tradition. We offer a wonderful mix of choral styles in music, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present, sung by renown ensembles from near and far.”
The 2016-17 season opens Monday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. with a concert entitled “An Italian Madrigal Journey” performed by the Choral Arts Society of Washington. The program traces the evolution of the Italian madrigal as it crosses 16th century Europe, migrates into the British Isles, and continues to the present.
The season continues Saturday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 p.m. with the Westminster Williamson Voices in “Part the Mystic.” The program’s principal work is Arvo Part’s “Kanon Pokajanen.” The combined choirs of the Cathedral Basilica and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will round out the calendar year with “Christmas at the Cathedral Basilica” Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m.
For more information call 215-561-1313 or visit www.cathedralphilaconcerts.org.