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Pontiff, this one’s especially for you - Xaverian High School Select Band to play for Pope Benedict XVI this month

When the plane of Pope Benedict XVI touches down at JFK airport on the morning of April 19, the first sounds of the Big Apple the pontiff will hear will come courtesy of Xaverian High School Select Band. The band – which consists of 46 of the school’s top musicians – will serenade the Pope and a crowd of around 5,000 invitees with a rendition of Christus Vincut, an organ and brass fanfare selected for the occasion by the Diocese of Brooklyn. The song will feature an electronic organ, six trumpets, five trombones, one French horn, and one tuba. The Pope himself will only hear the band for around 15 minutes before he is whisked off to one of his many commitments on an East Coast trip also taking him to Washington, D.C., “but those 15 minutes will be pretty intense,” according to band director Joe Loposky. “The boys have been practicing six hours a week and coming in on vacation. They know that something like this takes a special time commitment, and they’ve been willing to put in the time,” Loposky said. Overall, the band will play for the dignitaries for around one hour. The honor of playing for the pope is the latest notch in the belt of a Xaverian music program in recent years. The school’s jazz band “three-peated” as the National Talent Quest champions in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The jazz band and chorus performed at the Expo2005 World’s Fair in Aichi, Japan, where the locals were so impressed they invited the band back to the Land of the Rising Sun for a cherry blossom festival in Inuyama. Then, last December, the chorus was invited to the White House for the President’s holiday party, though the president himself could not make it. Not bad for a program that started in 1994 in a school that had been music-less ever since its glee club became defunct in the early 1970s. “We started off with nothing. Not a single instrument, nothing,” said Loposky, 44, a trumpet player who performed in the Mexico State Symphony before coming to Xaverian. In the program’s first year, 23 students signed up for a beginning band. Fourteen years later, the number of participants has increased to 330 students, who partake in one of the school’s 14 different performing groups. “The jazz band was first, then the chorus, then the liturgical choir,” said Loposky. “Each time I saw a need or a place I could give a student something new to learn, I added a class.” Lopsoky said that Xaverian’s students are special because of their “high learning curve. They can’t get enough. And I’m glad to challenge these students at every turn.” He thinks the concert for the Pope will be a good challenge and learning opportunity for his charges. “Getting out into the real world and performing is a good test: It shows where they are,” he said “And they’re doing well. I’m proud that we’re able to do this. It’s a once in a lifetime chance for them.” *** The Xaverian music program’s spring performances will take place on May 15 (strings and vocal) and 16 (bands) at 7:30 p.m, in the Brother Warren Abel Auditorium at Xaverian High School, which is located at 7100 Shore Road in Bay Ridge. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students, and are available for purchase at the door.

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