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Alma Mater-Music from the Vatican

“I am convinced that music really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth.” -Pope Benedict XVI
by Michele Bondi Bottesi | Source:

New album features His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, reciting and singing passages and prayers.
Alma Mater, Latin for “Nourishing Mother,” was made in honor of the Virgin Mary and features classical music enthusiast Pope Benedict XVI. The album offers a blend of Lauretan Litanies and Marian popular chants with eight original pieces of modern classical music.  Thus far, the only other Pontiff to have released an audio CD was Pope John Paul II with Aber Pater in 1999. 

 Vatican Radio provided the Pope’s recordings during official services at Mass, prayers, and speeches made mostly during Marian pilgrimages for  use on the album. The Pontiff was recorded in St. Peter’s Basilica singing passages and prayers in Latin, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese, backed up vocally by The Choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome conducted by Monsignor Pablo Colino, Maestro Emeritus of St. Peter’s Basilica.  The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra provided the modern classical recordings on all the specially commissioned contemporary tracks, which were mixed at London’s Abbey Road Studios.
 In this collaboration Pope Benedict XXI brings together the talents of both Christian and non- Christians.  The music for Alma Mater was written by three contemporary composers:  Simon Boswell from Britain, Italy-based Moroccan Nour Eddine, and Stefano Mainetti of Italy.  Producer Vincent Messina acquired his top three choices for the album.  "A happy coincidence is that Stefano is Catholic, Simon is ‘undeclared’ and Nour is Muslim, thus perfectly representing our aim to produce an album that has universal appeal to all of those who love beautiful music.” 
Bringing together the talents of composers from different faith groups sends a message about the unity of mankind, reinforcing the Pope's belief that “music really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth.”

Award winning film composers Boswell  and Mainetti were also involved with the album’s music arrangements and production.  Nour Eddine, whose background is in traditional Arabic music, was surprised when asked to contribute to the project until he realized that “Gregorian chants and Arabic melody has deep historical roots in the Muslim world as well as the Christian world.  It was a magical moment for me when the tradition of the Gregorian and my Arabic melody came together so harmoniously.”

 Alma Mater is a response to the Pope’s concern with the need to recover the sacred place that music has in the liturgy of the Church and the need for music that inspires people and glorifies God.  The music was composed using Gregorian Chants as the starting point.  According to Stefano Mainetti, “Here, instead of composing to a film script, which I’m used to, the ‘script’ was the Gregorian chants sang by the Choir and the words of the Pope, and it was fantastically inspiring.” 

The tracks include Sancta Dei Genitrix (Holy Mother of God), Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church), Advocata Nostra (Gracious Advocate), Benedicta Tu (Blessed art Thou), Causa Nostrae Laetitiae (Cause of our Joy), Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians), Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven), and Magistra Nostra (Our Teacher). 

According to Producer Messina, the “wonderful compositions for  Alma Mater have exceeded our expectations and we have all been very moved at how successfully these modern scores blend with the choir, the orchestra and the Pope’s voice.  We feel sure that the music and the spoken word will both surprise and delight.” 

A portion of the profits from the album will go to a charity providing musical education to underprivileged children around the world.  Composers Boswell, Eddine, and Mainetti plan to conduct their music from Alma Mater at a series of international concerts this winter.  

On the Net:

Official website

Official video trailer


Michele Bondi Bottesi is a Mother, Psychologist, and author of “Your Personal Apostolate:  Accepting and Sharing the Love of God.”  Two new books in the apostolate series, “Your Teen Apostolate:  Accepting and Sharing the Love of God” and “Your Preteen Apostolate:  Accepting and Sharing the Love of God” were co-authored with her sons Andre and Nicholas Bottesi and will be released in late 2009.  Michele’s blog is  She can be reached at

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