When Pope Benedict XVI leaves New York after his April visit, the St. Francis Prep Chamber Orchestra will perform for him in an airport hangar.
In March, the Fresh Meadows school found out that the orchestra had been selected to perform. Mark Krolikowski, the co-director of the orchestra, attributed the group’s performances on the Brooklyn Dioceses’ prayer channel as one reason for their selection. They first were on the channel last year and were asked back for an encore.
“That was sort of like our audition,” Krolikowski said.
Fellow director Robert L. Johnston said that he was thrilled and excited when he heard the news. He told the 22-member orchestra, which is made up of students from all grade levels, about it during rehearsal when they were not playing as well as usual. To get their attention, he said that they would have to focus and get things together if they were going to be playing for the Pope.
“This is really something the kids earned,” he said.
Senior John Allimonos, a Flushing resident who plays the violin, said that at first he didn’t believe it and thought Johnston was joking.
Toni Foster, also a senior and violinist, said that at first the students were told not to get too excited about the performance, since there was a chance something could change and they might not end up playing.
“But I knew in the back of my head that we were definitely going to play because I knew we were good enough to do it,” said Foster, a resident of Cambria Heights.
Ozone Park resident Edwin-Nikko Kabigting, also a senior violinist, will perform for the Pope with the Chamber Orchestra and as a member of the Diocesan High School Choir. He said that the members of the orchestra have become like “one big happy family.”
“I’m a little nervous [about the performance] but I think it’s going to be an amazing experience,” Kabigting said.
The performance will take place on Sunday, April 20. Krolikowski explained that all songs had to be approved by the Vatican. He said they also found out some of the Pope’s favorite music in order to assist them in preparing a 40-minute program.
The Chamber Orchestra already has a busy schedule, so Johnston said they have been sticking to that, although they have added some extra rehearsals.
When they perform for the Pope, the students will be joined by three professional soloists. Johnston, Krolikowski and faculty member/percussionist Mark Teofilo will also be with the students.
Allimonos said that he wants to be able to impress the Pope during the performance.
“To be able to impress someone of his stature in the world (would be) incredible,” he said.
Krolikowski said that something such as this honor will encourage current students as well as attract new students. He said that he hopes the Pope likes their selections and that he sees how vibrant Catholic schools in the area are. He also said that, with a blessing from the Pope, the orchestra will perform even better than they already do.
Johnston said that he wants to take the concert as a chance to enjoy making music and sharing it with others. He wants to give the best possible presentation and show all there that the orchestra enjoys what they do.
“We really pride ourselves on our accomplishments and our legacy,” Johnston said. “To be able to count this among the accomplishments of our students is very special to us.”
With Additional Reporting By Noah Rosenberg