Thousands of families and local music lovers gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last week for a night of sacred holiday music during the 27th Annual Christmas Concert for Charity.
The concert was cosponsored by The Catholic University of America and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and took place Dec. 2 in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica, which was decked in garlands and poinsettias. Money raised during the night benefitted Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The first portion of the concert featured the Choir of the Basilica, conducted by Peter Latona, director of music. The second half included performances by the CUA Chamber Choir conducted by Tim McDonnell, the director of choral studies and head of the Institute of Sacred Music; the University Singers, conducted by instructor Allan Laino; the Women’s Chorus conducted by Rev. Vincent Bagan, O.P.; a graduate student in sacred music; and the CUA Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simeone Tartaglione, clinical assistant professor of orchestral conducting.
The concert was highlighted by the premiere of a brand new composition, “Videntes Stellam,” by Puerto Rican composer Johanny Navarro, who is pursuing her M.M. in composition at the University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. Navarro finds inspiration in her heritage, resulting in a musical aesthetic with rich Afro-Caribbean influences. Previously, her music has been performed internationally in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, France, and Spain.
“We are delighted by the premier of Ms. Navarro’s stunning new work,” said Music School Dean Grayson Wagstaff. “The School of Music choirs and symphony orchestra premier either a new student or faculty composition each year at the Christmas Concert for Charity. We believe that this is a unique opportunity for a student and a platform to present a new work in the Catholic heritage of great music for Advent and Christmas.”
Other works performed included excerpts from Elijah by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy; “O Clap Your Hands” by Ralph Vaughan Williams; “Veni, Emmanuel,” by McDonnell; a new arrangement of the traditional Spanish song “Hacía Belen va un Burra”; “There is No Rose of Such Virtue,” by Jonathan Lane; and The Mystery of Bethlehem from The Fulfilment by Healey Willian.
As is tradition, audience members were encouraged to stand and join the chorus in singing the traditional carols of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” The concert concluded with “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah as orchestrated by Mozart.
The concert will air on EWTN on Dec. 25, at 1:20 p.m.; Dec. 26, at 3 a.m., and Dec. 31, at 10 p.m.