BR students perform before pope

A special performing trip to Italy took on unexpected poignancy Wednesday when Baton Rouge Magnet High School’s chorus performed for Pope Benedict XVI in what turned out to be the pontiff’s last public Mass before he retires Feb. 28.

The performance for the pope had been scheduled for months, but the Pope’s surprise resignation on Monday made it all the more significant.

Vatican TV broadcast the chorus performing “Cry Out and Shout,” by Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt, with the Pope clapping heartily at the end.

“It’s something they will truly never forget,” said Annalee Campbell, an adult chaperone on the trip.

Campbell’s daughter, Caroline, a 16-year-old junior, is one of the 25 members of the chorus known as the “Festival Singers.”

Speaking by phone from Italy, Campbell said the pope addressed her daughter and the other singers directly, and when they were finished, he not only clapped but waved at them.

“It truly was phenomenal, truly spectacular,” Campbell said. “Everyone came out feeling overwhelmed at the significance of what happened.”

Afterward, the teenagers got a lot of attention.

“When they exited the auditorium, they were inundated with media,” she said.

The trip began Feb. 6 and the chorus has given performances throughout Italy, including informal performances in village piazzas, Campbell said.

The trip is coming to an end. Wednesday was the last full day in Italy with a long flight awaiting them the next day, as well as lots of homework, Campbell said.

“They want to see the pictures. They want to see the videos,” she said. “Everyone was so caught up in the moment, until you see it back, you don’t realize the impact of it all.”