Carnivale Christi 2002 - Young Catholics restoring Sydney's Christian culture

Carnivale Christi 2002 - Young Catholics restoring Sydney's Christian culture

Helen Ransom

Young Catholics will again combine their artistic talents to celebrate the richness of Christian culture through drama, music, poetry and art, when Carnivale Christi 2002 opens in Sydney this month.

Inspired by the success of last year's inaugural 3-week event - which attracted over 4,000 spectators and 200 performers (and media interest as far as Rome) - Carnivale Christi 2002 organisers are aiming to again light up Sydney's often grimy cultural atmosphere using two vital ingredients: the Church and her (very enthusiastic) youth.

Carnivale Christi, a wholly youth initiative, is a joint project of the Sydney Archdiocese Youth Events Committee, the Society of St Peter, Life/Theatre and the Sydney University Catholic Chaplaincy. Its primary objective is to provide a forum for young Australians to perform, compose and celebrate Christianity through the creative arts. A large group of dedicated young Catholics has spent the past few months preparing the festival - including organising events, production, and promotions.

"Everyone involved is incredibly excited - we can't wait for the curtain to rise," said Festival Director, Anthony McCarthy, 22.

"The timing also couldn't be better. We're in the middle of celebrating Easter - the greatest feast on the Church's calendar; St Thérèse's relics are visiting Sydney; all the Australian Bishops are here for their Annual Conference; and the Easter National Conference of the International Movement of Catholic Students Australia is being hosted here," he said.

"Carnivale Christi 2002 is going to draw big crowds. It's going to inspire a resurgence in appreciation of the amazing impact Christian culture has had on society over the last 2000 years."

Patrons for this year's Carnivale include acclaimed soprano Amelia Farrugia, and Maestro, Fortunato Pessimenti. Farrugia has toured Australia in The Phantom of the Opera and Pessimenti is a Maestro in Renaissance Art from L'Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome.

The festival will be officially opened on 5 April, and will feature well-known vocal quartet "The Idea of North"; an exhibition of religious art and iconography, including Pessimenti's original display of Sistine Chapel fresco replicas; St Charbel's Syriac Choir; and Donald McDonald's The Gospel of John.

Sydney's Archbishop George Pell has also put his support behind Carnivale Christi.

"I commend the work of the university societies, drama groups, schools, choirs, artists, photographers, sponsors, patrons and all others participating in Carnivale Christi 2002," the Archbishop said.

"I pray that during this coming Eastertide, Carnivale Christi will be a powerful expression of faith in the Risen Christ."

One of the highlights of the festival will be the world premiere of a new Australian play, The Sword of Sorrow - An Arthurian Tale, an original work written last year by Lucy O'Connell, 26, who is now a staff member at the Sydney University Catholic Chaplaincy. The Sword of Sorrow tells the dramatic story of Merlin, the creation of King Arthur's sword, and the tussle between pride and humility, good and evil. The play is presented by Life/Theatre and the Society of St Peter. It will run over six nights from 12 April, at the Fig Tree Theatre at the University of NSW.

The festival will again host "Music and Poetry Through the Ages", which will take place at Sydney University's Great Hall on 26 April. The night will feature Gregorian, Coptic, Melkite, Ukrainian, Syriac and Russian chant.

The Campion Awards in Drama and Art will be the major means of involving Catholic schools in the festival. The Drama Competition encourages students to produce performances of dramatic and spiritual impact, and The Art Competition recognises excellence in the fields of Christian art and woodwork.

Finally, one of the proposed highlights of the festival will be The Festival of the Priests, to take place on the closing night in May.

The rise and rise of the Catholic Church in Sydney over the past two years is astounding, and a great deal of the recognition for this can be attributed to an increase in faith among young people. The Society of St Peter (based at Sydney University) and Life/Theatre are but two of a number of organisations that have been pro-actively promoting the Faith through their visible presence in the arts and on campus.

"The borders are blurring" between Australia's two largest cities - most notably since Archbishop Pell came to Sydney last year, where over 1000 young Catholics officially welcomed him at the closing night of Carnivale Christi. Present at the event was a group of young Melburnians, in Sydney for His Grace's installation. Their witness of the success of Carnivale Christi has led to the formation of an executive in Melbourne, which has begun organising a similar festival for later this year. A new production of A Man for All Seasons will travel south for Carnivale Christi (Melbourne).

As a young Catholic involved with Carnivale Christi in Sydney, I am excited to report to readers of AD2000 that the revival of the Church is happening - and it's the next generation, interested in authentic and unadulterated Catholicism, which is leading the way. In the past few months of preparations, rehearsals and costume fittings, a large group of young people - students and professionals - has donated hours and hours of their time to make this event a success. Not for their own ends, but for the glory of God and the witness of the beauty and richness of Christian culture to a city that so badly needs it.

For further information on the event schedule for Carnivale Christi 2002 in Sydney, please contact the Festival Office (02) 8200-4623, or visit the website www.carnivalechristi.com

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