Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Colombian pop star Juanes, who began his music career in a thrash metal band, are to perform at a Catholic families festival that will be attended by Pope Francis in Philadelphia on September 26.
Some 750,000 are expected to attend the event, held at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
The Festival of Families is the closing ceremony of the World Meeting of Families, and the following day Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass at the same event.
For the Mass each parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been asked to nominate four members to audition for possible inclusion in a 500-member archdiocesan choir that will sing at the Mass.
Invitation-only auditions are being held in July for the nominees, who must be able to sight read music, have experience singing in choral parts and get a background check and security clearance. The orchestra will provide musical accompaniment for the papal Mass and the Festival of Families on the evening of September 26, at which Pope Francis also is scheduled to give an address.
The festival is seen as a a cultural and artistic celebration coinciding with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. According to information from world meeting organisers, Bocelli, who has sold more than 70 million records worldwide, strongly supports social issues such as education, scientific research and alleviating poverty. He also promotes awareness of inequality and advocates for solidarity.
The Colombian Juanes began his career with Colombian thrash metal band Ekhymosis, before finding success in more family friendly Latin pop. He has twice won Grammys and has won over 20 Latin Grammy Awards. He is one of the biggest pop singers in Latin America and also is committed to social activism. His “Paz sin Fronteras” organisation uses music to unite all people and advocates for peace.
Juanes told CBS news that the event meant so much to him, saying: “I think (Francis) is a very accepting person, a person who brings people together, so being there as a Colombian, as a Latino, singing to him in Spanish, is a real honour.”
Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families, told Catholic News Service: “When we first began planning the Festival of Families, we wanted to ensure that we brought together performers that represented the world.
“To have Andrea Bocelli, one of the world’s great vocalists, and Juanes, one of the most popular performers in all of Latin America, come to Philadelphia for the Festival of Families is an extraordinary gift,” she said. And to be able to have these incredible individuals perform with our hometown jewel in the Philadelphia Orchestra brings this event together in spectacular fashion.”
“Without a doubt,” Farrell added, “these performances will not only capture the hearts and imaginations of the thousands who will watch them live on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway but also the millions around the world who will watch on television and online.”