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Pope Francis gets young composers in the Christmas spirit

Christmas decorations on sheet music

New Africa | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 09/20/23

The Pope addressed contestants of the Vatican's 2023 Christmas music contest, which will see winning compositions performed at the Vatican's Christmas concert.

On Saturday, September 16, Pope Francis held an audience with participants of a new contest in which young people will add Christmas songs to the Catholic songbook. Titled “Harmony and Creativity,” the contest will see young composers compete to write the best Christmas sacred music, with winning pieces performed at the annual Vatican Christmas concert. 

The Pontiff greeted the young crowd of musicians and composers in the Consistory Hall, where he gave the address. He began by remarking on the demanding nature of music as an artform. He noted that the rules of music composition create a language of its own, which composers use to express themselves, their inspirations, and the desires of the heart: 

“It is an art that requires, in two words, harmony and creativity, which go together. In this sense, we can say that composing music is a metaphor for life, in which we need both to synchronize harmoniously with others, with society and its rules, and to give space to the originality of each person’s way of being and expressing oneself.”

Breaking down the title of the contest, Pope Francis explained that harmony and creativity are not in conflict. Harmony, he said, is as important to music making as it is to daily life. The commitment, dedication, and consistency required to create appealing harmony are tools of a composer to communicate and become a “gift for the joy of all.”

He marveled at the expressive nature of art, especially music, and how artists share their “unique, personal and intimate feelings” through their selected medium. He noted that he expects each composition will give the contest’s judges “the opportunity to encounter you in a unique moment,” and for this he thanked the participants: 

“… a flicker of light, a tremor of love, a glimpse of blue in the sky of life, a jolt of amazement in the face of beauty, or perhaps a twinge of pain or a cry of protest, which appeared in your heart and to which you gave voice through art. This you give us, and so here comes a second thank you, because with your songs you give us a little of yourselves! This is important, artists give themselves when they compose a work.”

As he reached the end of his address, Pope Francis encouraged the artists to get into the spirit of Christmas, while he admitted that it does seem rather early to begin talking about the winter holiday at the tail end of summer

“Important festivities, however, we begin to prepare in advance, and the Nativity of Jesus merits this and more! And then, music does not only tell us about ourselves, but also about the search for God, and sometimes God himself!”

He explained that both harmony and creativity are found in God and Christmas displays this “in a special and moving way.”

He also noted that a beloved Argentine Christmas song from his childhood expresses the mindset he wishes the artists to adopt: 

“At Christmas, God, the eternal Word, comes to listen to us and sets to work to make harmony with humanity, while in his astonishing creativity he looks at us through the eyes of a child, surprising us with his innocent tenderness. And this happens not only on 25 December, but every day! There is a beautiful song in my country which begins like this: ‘Every day is Christmas.’ For every one of us, every day, there is the possibility of the Lord being born and giving life to others: ‘Every day is Christmas.’”

Read Pope Francis’ address to young artists at the Vatican’s website.

ChristmasPope FrancisSacred Music
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