December 18, 2019

Concert Raises Nearly $10,000 for Brothers of Charity

Earlier this month, for the 30th year in a row, musicians from The Catholic University of America joined forces with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate the start of the Christmas season with the Annual Christmas Concert for Charity in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica.

In 1985, then-Music Dean Elaine Walter invited Leo Nestor (then music director at the Shrine) to conduct the University’s annual Christmas Concert, held in the Crypt Church of the Shrine. She also commissioned him to compose a choral work for the event on the Christmas story, “In the Fullness of Time.” This piece also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II.

Several years later, in 1990, under the direction of the Basilca’s rector, Walter worked with Nestor to create a combined concert in the Great Upper Church and to make it an annual tradition. Every year since, the concert has opened with the Basilica Choir, followed by the music school’s ensembles. 

In 2001, Nestor left the Basilica to become a faculty member of the School of Music at CatholicU. He served for many years as the Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music, director of choral studies, director of the Institute of Sacred Music, a member of the conducting faculty, and cooperating member of the composition faculty. He retired in 2016.  

The Christmas Concert remained a highlight of Nestor’s career. “Each year it is a joyful challenge to program a different spectrum of Christmas-Advent-Epiphany music which will move our audiences, on occasion retaining time-honored music (like "Hallelujah") to which the audience has responded well,” he said in a Q-and-A in 2015. “The carols with chorus, orchestra, organs and audience, always in elegantly crafted settings, are a real joy: to turn around and to see the entire Basilica standing and to hear the beautiful sound.”

Nestor passed away in September, and was remembered in a loving tribute at this year’s concert. An orchestral version of Nestor’s Adagio y Villancico was played at this year’s concert. The composition had been dedicated to Kevin O’Brien, the first doctoral student to earn his D.M.A. in sacred music under Nestor’s leadership. O’Brien conducted the performance at the concert. 

Over the last 30 years, many charities have benefited from this collaborative effort, and each year, a new composition has premiered at the event, which draws a massive audience.  

This year the concert raised $9,750 for the Brothers of Charity, an international religious congregation with a strong commitment to social issues. The Fatima Community in Washington is an inclusive community sponsored by the Brothers of Charity that was founded Oct. 12, 2017, and still continues with two resident brothers and nine guests who are experiencing homelessness. Their mission is to enable each individual member to transition from the Fatima community to again live a meaningful life in society.   

Also recognized at this year’s concert was music alumnus Robert Shafer. Shafer is the founder of the Washington Chorus as well as the City Chorus of Washington, and notably, the recipient of two Grammy Awards. After his studies at CatholicU, he studied with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory of Music at Fontainebleau in France. 

The concert included performances by the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine, the Catholic University Chamber Choir, the University Singers, and the CUA Symphony Orchestra conducted by Timothy McDonnell, director of choral studies and the Institute of Sacred Music, and Allan Laino, director of the University Singers.

The concert will air on EWTN on Dec. 25 at 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.; Dec. 27 at 1:30 p.m.; and Dec. 29 at 1:30 p.m. (all times EST). EWTN will also air the 2018 concert Dec. 18 at 5:30 a.m. Check local listings for more details.