The Catholic University of America

Dec. 15, 2009

21st Annual Christmas Concert for Charity Raises $12,000

  From left, Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica; Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor; Vincent C. Burke III, chairman of the board of directors of the Consortium of Catholic Academies; and Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University.

The 21st Annual Christmas Concert for Charity raised $12,000 for the Consortium of Catholic Academies, four schools that serve children and families in some of Washington, D.C.'s neediest neighborhoods.

Co-sponsored by Catholic University and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the Dec. 4 concert drew an audience that filled the Basilica, where red poinsettias lined the steps leading to the altar and evergreen garlands hung from the upper balconies of the blue-domed edifice that adjoins the CUA campus.

Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the Basilica, welcomed the audience and Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University, introduced Vincent C. Burke III, chairman of the board of directors for the cluster of schools, who appealed to those in attendance for their financial support.

In his remarks, Burke noted that "these are tough times for the consortium."

Three hundred fifteen of the consortium's 908 students are recipients of D.C. Opportunity Scholarships. Because of a cutback in federal funding, the scholarships have not been reauthorized, and many consortium students may have to return to public schools. The consortium needs to raise nearly $2 million to replace the money for the scholarships.

The consortium includes the Brookland neighborhood's St. Anthony Catholic School, which continues an 85-year tradition of serving children in Northeast Washington, D.C., and a long-established partnership with Catholic University.

"These schools are a beacon of hope in their neighborhoods," said Burke. "They provide a real education and, in many instances, save lives." Burke kept his remarks brief, he said, so that those in the audience "could dig as deep as possible" in their pockets to help the consortium.

CUA musicians perform at the concert.  

In addition to the faithful who filled the Basilica, Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor, also attended the concert.

Prior to the start of the concert, a Basilica usher remarked that some members of the audience arrived as early as 5 p.m. that evening to get seats for the time-honored event.

The concert featured the Catholic University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra and the Choir of the Basilica. The 20-member resident Choir of the Basilica opened the concert with "Gloria" (from Missa Personent Hodie) arranged by Peter Latona, music director for the Basilica. Under the direction of Latona, the choir performed Christmas music spanning six centuries including works by masters of sacred music as well as newly composed pieces for the Christmas season.

CUA's musicians were led by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music, and David Searle, director of orchestral activities and conducting studies. The university musicians premièred "Apparition: A Christmas Prelude," a work by Stephen Gorbos, assistant professor of composition and theory. They also performed pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, George Frederic Handel and Flor Peeters. The concert featured orchestrations by Richard Miller, lecturer in music theory and guitar, and Steven Allen and Sarah Horick, doctoral candidates in composition.

The Basilica audience joined the CUA chorus and orchestra in singing several popular Christmas carols. Prior to the concert, Robert Grogan, CUA lecturer and faculty adviser on organ, presented a carillon recital. Grogan is also carillonneur and organist emeritus of the Basilica.

The concert will air on EWTN-TV at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, and at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 25.