Spanish village choir sings its own praises after Vatican Mass

By Thomson Reuters Feb 15, 2024 | 6:57 AM

By Guillermo Martinez

FUENTEARMEGIL, Spain (Reuters) – A remote Spanish village choir made up mostly of pensioners is singing its own praises after a dream of a lifetime came true – flying to Rome to perform at the Vatican.

The 21-member Fuentearmegil Choir, created to promote cultural life in a depopulated, rural village in central Spain, performed on Sunday at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.

Choirmaster and conductor Hector Diez Berzosa came up with the idea while visiting the Vatican as a teacher and noticing there were choir performances during some Masses.

“Apart from making us happy, this gives us the chance to showcase the voices of these often forgotten and abandoned lands,” he told Reuters before travelling.

The choir is made up of 21 people, mainly residents of Fuentearmegil, a village with fewer than 200 inhabitants whose houses are clustered around a church and ringed by fields in Spain’s Soria province in Castille and Leon.

Depopulation, known locally as Espana Vaciada, is a major challenge in Spain, whose 48.5 million-strong population is 80% urban and occupies just 13% of its territory.

Lucia Sierra told Reuters before the Vatican trip it would be her first time on a plane.

“It’s not something I, or anyone else, does every day,” she said.

Fermin Cabrerizo, 72, was equally euphoric.

“I’m taking my wife so that she sees it and my children and my grandchildren can say: ‘Our father went to Rome, and he sang in the Vatican’. It’s really big,” he said.

The choir performed seven pieces, in Spanish and Latin, at St Peter’s on Sunday.

“In the group there have been tears, there’s a lot of emotion,” Diez said after the performance. “The dream has been fulfilled. We don’t have more words.”

(Writing by Emma Pinedo, editing by Aislinn Laing and Nick Macfie)