The Catholic University of America

Feb. 6, 2015

Music School to Give Two Performances at Little Flower Church


The Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will present two events this semester at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md. The events, which are free and open to the public, are part of the school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration. On Feb. 20, the Composition Division will premiere 14 original pieces of music inspired by the Stations of the Cross. On March 1, the CUA Symphony Orchestra will pay tribute to Polish composer and CUA honorary doctorate recipient Henryk Gorecki.

According to Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the music school, the two events represent a long-term connection to the Church of the Little Flower, where several graduate students in sacred music have worked. Alumnus Jonathan Hellerman, who graduated in 2008, currently serves as organist.

“Monsignor Peter Vaghi (pastor) is an outspoken proponent for great music and has frequently invited our students and faculty to perform at Little Flower,” said Wagstaff. “In addition to a previous concert by the orchestra, our University Singers and Chamber Choir gave a combined concert; the Piano Division has also presented students in concert in this beautiful parish. We consider the parish one of our favorite off-campus venues because of the kindness and welcome we receive.”

The Stations of the Cross will be observed at 7:30 p.m. on the first Friday of Lent, Feb. 20, by Monsignor Vaghi, who is not only pastor of the church but also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. The event will follow the traditional Catholic devotion, in which a presider and group of worshippers move from station to station in a church, stopping to pray before each one. In this case, the service will include 14 original miniature string quartets composed by members of the Catholic University community, including faculty, students, and alumni, each reflecting on the event portrayed.

“In keeping with the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music’s 50th anniversary, the 14 composers represent multiple generations of CUA alumni, faculty, and current students,” said Andrew Simpson, professor of music and project director. “‘Stations’ will be a multi-generational, diverse musical offering which participates in the ongoing liturgical life of the Church.”

This is not the first time the Composition Division has done a project of this kind: In 2005, the division premiered “Songs of the Forgotten War,” a concert piece comprising 19 original works reflecting on the 19 soldier statues at the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall. According to Simpson, what makes this year’s project unique is the subject matter: the Passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Wagstaff stated that having the Stations as a featured event of the 50th Anniversary Celebration underscores the centrality of Catholic musical traditions in the performance programs and curricula of the School of Music throughout its 50-year history.

“Something that is very powerful for me about the Stations devotion is that it speaks to so many themes central to our humanity: suffering, courage, sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness,” Simpson said. “We hope this service will create a very meaningful experience.”

For more information on the Stations of the Cross, including a list of composers, visit

The CUA Symphony Orchestra concert
featuring works by Henryk Gorecki, who received a CUA honorary doctorate in 1995, will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 1. Works performed will include Symphony No. 3, the Concerto for Harpsichord, and one of Gorecki’s dances.

According to conductor Simeone Tartaglione, the pieces to be performed reflect a wide range of styles and emotions. Symphony No. 3 (“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”), one of the best-selling contemporary symphonies of all time, is a sorrowful, powerful, and spiritual reflection rooted in the sacred and secular musical traditions of Eastern Europe, with a soprano soloist serving as a maternal presence. The second piece, the Concerto for Harpsichord, is an “extremely percussive, electrifying ostinato” piece that portrays the national spirit and pride of Poland. The final piece, a dance, is lighter, but quite challenging, Tartaglione said.

This concert is the first of two symphony orchestra concerts to take place during the music school’s yearlong 50th Anniversary Celebration. The second, which will include the music of American composer Aaron Copland (a 1979 CUA honorary degree recipient), is scheduled for Nov. 22 at the Church of the Little Flower.

Tartaglione believes the concerts will connect audiences with “excellence at CUA.”

“We are celebrating a first class composer whose intense and powerful writing granted him a well deserved honorary doctorate,” he said. “Our concert is a way to celebrate Gorecki, but at the same time to celebrate Catholic University and our current students.”

For more information on these and other events related to the music school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, visit or call 202-319-5416.




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