The Catholic University of America

April 7, 2008

Catholic University Choir Rehearses for Pope Benedict XVI

Leo Nestor directs students rehearsing for the papal visit.
"Be like a bell out there," Leo Nestor, Catholic University music professor, told his students as they rehearsed Monday, April 7, for the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the CUA campus.

The 17 CUA undergraduate and graduate students rehearsed the two pieces they will sing for Pope Benedict XVI in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center on Thursday, April 17. Nestor, the Justine Ward Bayard Professor of Music, will direct the performance.

The students' voices were indeed bell-like as they echoed high and clear throughout the halls of Ward Hall, home of CUA's Benjamin T. Rome School of Music.

The students practiced the 8th-century chant Laudes regiae: Christus vincit, chosen by Nestor and described by him as "a shout" or acclamation. One of the earliest forms of ritual or processional music dating back to the coronation of Charlemagne, the piece invokes blessings and graces for the Church and upon the Holy Father, says Nestor.

The students also rehearsed Tu es Petrus. A tribute to the papacy, the hymn opens with the line: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." It was written by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who died in 1594.

Choir members discuss musical preparations for Pope Benedict XVI's visit.
The church theme of the music particularly resonated with senior Brenna Hanson, a vocal performance major from Bay Village, Ohio. "While we all love choraling," Hanson said, "more than just singing, it seems we are expressing, ultimately, a prayer."

The CUA performance will mark Nestor's third performance for a pope. Nestor has twice before directed ensembles that have performed for a pope. His previous performances were in Rome for Pope John Paul II. In May 1993 he directed the CUA Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and in 1987 he directed the CUA Chorus and Symphony Orchestra.

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy at 202-319-5600.