College prof to sing for Pope Francis

WASHINGTON — A Maryland college professor will be among those singing in a choir for Pope Francis next week.

St. Mary’s College professor Jeff Byrd says the news came as a surprise to his colleagues and students, who didn’t know he could sing. He jokes that could be because of the way his speaking voice comes across.

“My voice doesn’t sound anything like my singing voice. I’ve been told I have more of a Kermit-the-Frog speaking voice,” Byrd says.

He sings bass in his church choir, and was encouraged to follow up on an invitation to audition for a chance to sing at the canonization Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception when he was overheard singing at a church on the Eastern Shore.

Byrd says auditioning was a bit disconcerting, but he’s thrilled to have earned a place in the choir and the rare chance to sing for a pope.

“When I finally got the email that said I was part of the choir, I had to read it three or four times before I actually believed that I was being offered a spot,” Byrd says.

Byrd says it’s unlikely that he’ll be tempted to sneak a selfie during the Mass, but not because photos aren’t allowed (they are, without a flash).

“Once we’re on site, we’ll be singing so much throughout the Mass and before the Mass, that you just have to stay focused. There is no time to really think about anything else.”

The biology professor says many people unfamiliar with the college assume that St. Mary’s College is a Catholic institution; it’s not. It’s the public honors college of the state of Maryland.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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