Nov. 18, 2005
CUA and National Shrine to Sponsor 17th Annual Christmas Concert
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Caroling Will Precede Charity Event
Musicians from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America will present the 17th Annual Christmas Concert for Charity in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m. Donations will benefit SOAR Inc. (Support Our Aging Religious), a non-profit organization based in Silver Spring, Md., that helps to ensure the retirement needs of elderly members of U.S. Catholic religious congregations.
Prior to the concert, the university will hold its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in front of McMahon Hall. The 5:15 p.m. event will feature Christmas carols, readings, prayers and a reflection by Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president.
The concert will highlight performances by the CUA Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Professor Leo Nestor and Associate Professor Kate Tamarkin, respectively, and by the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine, under the direction of Peter Latona, the Basilica’s director of music.
“This year we’re presenting a very broad spectrum of pieces celebrating music of the 16th century through works of contemporary composers created especially for this concert,” says Latona, who leads its 20-voice chamber choir. “The end result should be quite spectacular with the choirs, soloists, full orchestra and the Shrine’s magnificent pipe organs joined by an audience of 3,000 for the concluding carols.”
Selections by the choir will include 20th-century composer Harry Somers’ “Gloria” for two trumpets, choir and organ, works by Benjamin Britten and a motet by Flemish Renaissance composer Clemens non Papa. The choir will close its portion of the concert with “Magnificat” for double choir by German Baroque composer Charles Pachelbel.
In keeping with the motif of music across the ages, the CUA Chorus and Symphony Orchestra will perform carols and Christmas selections by Renaissance composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck as well as later composers Joseph Leopold von Eybler, Felix Mendelssohn, Max Reger, Franz Xaver Biebl and Herbert Howells.
The university’s performance will open with the premiere of Associate Professor Andrew Simpson’s fanfare, “Aurora Christi,” continuing what is now a five-year tradition — an original fanfare composition for the concert by a member of the CUA music school.
“It’s a beautiful program that also includes the driving “Farandole” by Bizet and the lullaby, “Virgin’s Slumber Song,” by Reger,” says Tamarkin. “It’s diverse to suit everyone’s taste.”
Narrators William Graham, retired chair of the CUA Department of Drama, and his wife, Mary Graham, will provide introductions and background on the origins of some of the selections. The evening will conclude with a carol sing-along conducted by Tamarkin. The audience will be encouraged to participate.
As has been the case during the preceding 16 years, a free-will collection will be taken up during the concert to support a local charitable organization, in this case SOAR, which helps to ensure financially stable and personally secure futures for elderly and frail religious. SOAR’s activities augment the efforts of the institutional Catholic Church.
Previous concerts have benefited SOME (So Others May Eat), St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home, the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the elderly poor and New Endeavors for Women, among other local charities.
This year’s beneficiary, SOAR, has been serving elderly religious since 1986, when it was established in response to a Wall Street Journal article, which noted that the retirement needs of women and men religious in the United States had reached critical proportions.
Started by a concerned group of lay people, SOAR has distributed more than 500 grants, totaling almost $7 million, to more than 200 religious congregations of nuns, brothers and priests facing critical — often emergency — medical, safety and security needs in 42 states and Puerto Rico. The grants have helped to pay for building renovations to allow for handicapped accessibility, physical therapy, medical equipment and safety apparatus such as fire alarms and sprinklers.
For instance, SOAR awarded a grant to the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth to help replace a 30-year-old fire alarm system with one that meets current fire safety codes. The Ursuline Sisters received a grant to upgrade and enlarge a heating system in an old convent.
In recent months, SOAR has helped religious communities that have incurred unexpected costs as a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One of the post-hurricane requests came from the Servants of Mary in Oxnard, Calif., who asked for $30,000 to cover room-and-board costs for six sisters displaced by Katrina.
“We’re so grateful for the generosity of the Basilica and Catholic University in choosing SOAR as the beneficiary of this year’s concert,” says Sister Patricia A. Sullivan, R.S.M., president of SOAR. “The proceeds of the concert will help us to continue our mission of providing assistance to communities that are caring for elderly and infirmed religious.”
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at 202-319-4000 or the National Shrine at 202-526-8300 or visit www.nationalshrine.com. The Shrine is located at 400 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C.
MEDIA: To arrange coverage of the concert, contact Peter Sonski at 202-281-0615 (National Shrine) or Katie Lee at 202-319-5600 (Catholic University).
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The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Catholic church in the western hemisphere and the eighth largest church in the world. Completed in 1959, its more than 65 chapels and oratories represent the many ethnic devotions U.S. Catholics have to the Blessed Virgin. Pope John Paul II elevated the Shrine to the distinction of Basilica in 1990.
The Catholic University of America, located near the heart of Washington, D.C., is unique as the national university of the Catholic Church in America. Founded in 1887 and chartered by Congress, the university opened as a graduate and research institution. Undergraduate programs were introduced in 1904. Today the private and coeducational campus has approximately 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students from enrolled in 11 schools of architecture and planning, arts and sciences, canon law, engineering, law, library and information science, music, nursing, philosophy, social service, and theology and religious studies.
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