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No place like Rome for choirboys in blue

Dublin's famous Palestrina Choir yesterday sang for the Taoiseach – but it has an even more prestigious engagement next month when it performs for Pope Benedict in Rome.

The choir, comprising of 32 boy choristers, five junior and 12 senior men, will sing in St Peter's Basilica on the Feast Day of the Epiphany on January 6 with the Sistine Chapel Choir.

This will be the second time it has sang in the presence of the Pope – in February 2009 it played 'Handel's Messiah' to mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State.

Yesterday, the choir took time out from rehearsals to visit Government Buildings and sing some festive hymns for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was presented with a Palestrina medal by the head chorister, 13-year old Ryan Casey.

After the choir regaled Mr Kenny with a selection of hymns, including 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' and 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo', the choir's musical director Blatnaid Murphy explained that the invitation to sing in Rome had arrived "out of the blue".

"January 6 is a huge day of Episcopal celebration, and it's a great honour for the choir," she said.

Ryan Casey, whose two brothers Christian and Dylan also sing in the choir, said that everyone was "very excited" about their trip to Italy.

Founded in 1903, the Palestrina Choir is the only one of its type in the country and is one of the best known.

It sings every Sunday at 11am mass in the Pro Cathedral, and this Sunday, December 9, it will perform an evening of seasonal music at the National Concert Hall.

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