The Catholic University of America

Nov. 24, 2015

Music School to Present Christmas Concert for Charity


The Catholic University of America will kick off its Christmas celebrations Dec. 4 with a night of seasonal sacred music during the 26th Annual Christmas Concert for Charity.

This year’s concert will benefit the Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, a Catholic religious order that provides catechesis, medical services for the poor, educational services, and other charitable works.

The concert, which is cosponsored by the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church.

The first portion of the concert will feature the Choir of the Basilica, conducted by Peter Latona, director of music. The second half will feature the CUA Chamber Choir, the University Singers, University Chorus, and the CUA Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leo Nestor, Justine Bayard Ward Professor, director of choral studies, and director of the Institute of Sacred Music.

This year’s concert will be a particularly noteworthy one for Nestor, as it is his last Christmas concert before his spring sabbatical and “moving on to new adventures,” as he prefers to refer to the years ahead.

Nestor has been conducting the Christmas concerts since the first collaboration between CUA and the basilica in 1988. At the time, he was music director at the Basilica and an adjunct at CUA. Since coming to CUA full-time 15 years ago, Nestor has conducted the university musicians. Upon his arrival, he initiated an annual tradition of commissioning original music composed by CUA graduate students or faculty.

Related Links  
Interview: Leo Nestor Reflects on the Christmas Concert  

This year’s original compositions include “Stellam — Lunam — Rorate caeli desuper,” an Advent-inspired piece by Robert Baker, an assistant professor of theory and composition; and “True Peace,” a companion piece to Bach’s “Dona nobis pacem” composed by graduate student Joseph Kaz, who is pursuing his M.F.A. in composition.

Both Baker and Kaz said they are honored that their original work will be included in this year’s program. Baker said the tradition of including original music in each Christmas concert speaks to the continuing life of the Catholic Church.

“It speaks toward music — and sacred music in particular — being a living tradition,” Baker said. “So often we associate music with liturgy in ancient terms. That’s wonderful to keep those traditions in music alive, but at the same time it’s important to remember we are living in the 21st century. This shows a connection to the past in the present. It’s exciting and tells us about who we are as human beings as well as artists.”

Other works performed at the concert will include:

• Richard Wayne Dirksen’s “Chanticleer”
• Two premieres of Leo Nestor’s music: “I Sing of a Maiden,” and “’Twas in the moon of winter-time;” also “Who Comes?”
• The 17th-century Peruvian processional hymn to the Blessed Mother, “Hanacpachap Cussicuinin” sung in the Quecha language
• David Wilcock’s setting of “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” and “O come, All Ye Faithful”
• Gerald Near’s “O magnum mysterium”
• Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Dona nobis pacem” from his Mass in B minor
• Selections from George Frideric Handel’s Messiah with orchestration by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Admission is free, and early seating is recommended.

Free parking is available at the Basilica Harewood Road parking lot. For more information on the concert, visit or

The concert will be aired on EWTN on Dec. 22, at 2 p.m.; Dec. 25, at 5:30 p.m.; and Jan. 1, 2016, at 10 a.m.




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