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First Wayne Street UMC Choir will sing Mass at the Vatican in June

By Michael Summers


Fort Wayne Reader


Every few years Dale Tucker, the musical director and organist for the First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, leads the church choir on a European tour, performing at various big cathedrals and small town churches in several countries. And while Tucker says that performing at some of the most famous cathedrals in the world always makes for a memorable experience, the tour the First Wayne Street UMC starts in June promises to be a little more memorable than others…

The tour begins in Rome, and their itinerary includes a guided tour of the Vatican. While the trip was in its planning stages, Tucker half-seriously asked the tour guide he was working with if the group might be able to stop somewhere along the way and sing, just to say they had sung in the Vatican.

The tour guide suggested something much more interesting: why didn’t they apply to sing Mass? “I was not aware until that time that denominations other than Catholics could actually sing there,” says Tucker, who is taking his second tour with the First Wayne Street UMC. He didn’t expect anything to come of it, but nevertheless went through the application process, filling out the forms and submitting recordings for approval.

He was absolutely stunned when they were accepted to sing at the Saturday 5 p.m. Mass. Tucker had kept the whole thing a secret, but when he told his choir… “they were sort of in shock,” he says. “Their mouths dropped.”

Part of the application process included recordings and a list of material. “Everything I sent was approved up front,” Tucker says. “I knew what would and would not be appropriate.”

The tour takes the choir through Italy and Austria, with stops in Tuscany, Florence, Venice, and Salzburg before wrapping up in Vienna. During their tour, the choir will perform high classical material, as well as gospel music and American church anthems by contemporary composers. That’s not unusual for American choirs touring abroad. “We’ll perform things they (European audiences) don’t usually hear in a church service over there,” Tucker explains.

But for the Vatican, they’ll have to leave the contemporary stuff out of the set list. “No gospel, no contemporary Christian music,” says Tucker. “They’re very formal over there. It’s the high classical, Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn…”

No hand bells, either. The choir will bring their hand bells along for the tour, but for security reasons won’t be allowed to bring the large storage boxes inside the Vatican. Tucker explains there are a few other rules they need to follow: security concerns dictate they need to stay together as a group at all times, and decorum calls for a ban on open-toed shoes and any outfit with open shoulders for the women.

Tucker says he has no idea how many people usually attend the Saturday 5 p.m. Mass at the Vatican, though the crowd could be pretty large — it’s a very popular tourist destination. Also, there is a chance Pope Benedict XVI will be there. “They told us that quite often he does do the Saturday afternoon Mass,” Tucker says. “Depends if he’s in town.”

Just in case the Pope is there and they do meet face-to-face, Tucker is planning to meet Bishop D’Arcy of the Fort Wayne – South Bend Diocese to make sure he knows all the proper protocol. “I know the Pope is referred to as ‘His Holiness.’ The other officials… I’m not sure,” Tucker says. “That’s what I need to ask Bishop D’Arcy. I have yet to find out any of those things. Do I extend my hand first? Do I wait for him to extend his hand? Do we even shake hands? Do I bow? Do I kiss his ring? Too many of those little details that I’ve got to learn from Bishop D’Arcy yet.”

On Sunday, June 10 at 4 p.m., the First Wayne Street United Methodist Choir will offer a free concert featuring all the material they’ll be performing during the tour.

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