From the desk of Dr. Peter Latona, Director of Music
After the death of his brother, St. Ambrose wrote: “The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life, from the defilement of an earthly body; it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven to sing the praises of God. We learn from Scripture how God’s praise is sung to the music of the heart: Great and wonderful are your deeds, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not revere and glorify your nature? You alone are holy; all nations will come and worship before you.”
Music of the Heart
Though the passing of a loved one can feel impossibly heartbreaking, our faith offers us comfort and hope. The music of the faith-filled heart, brought to life by the hands of skilled composers, provides this comfort and hope in abundance.
Motivated by the desire to share this “music of the heart,” we began our tradition of presenting our spiritual concert for All Souls in 2017. These concerts, performed by the Choir of the Basilica in the beauty of the Basilica’s Crypt Church, provide an opportunity to contemplate our earthly journey and enter into God’s truth and beauty, find consolation, and be inspired by the hope of the Resurrection.
Song for Athene – John Tavener
The music offered is drawn from our rich tradition of sacred choral music spanning over 1,000 years. Several of the pieces we’ve sung were written in response to specific tragic events. John Tavener’s Song for Athene was written after the composer attended the funeral of a friend, and then became Tavener’s most famous work when it was performed in 1997 at the funeral of Princess Diana and heard by millions around the globe.
Lead Kindly Light – Arthur Sullivan
The beautiful text of Lead Kindly Light, written by St. John Henry Newman during an illness, has served as a source of comfort to people in dire situations ever since it was written. In addition to the Arthur Sullivan setting we recorded, it has been set to several hymn tunes, including one that was sung by passengers aboard one of the Titanic’s lifeboats as they spotted the ship that would rescue them.
More recently, Arvo Pärt’s Da pacem Domine was written in response to the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 193 people and injured 2,000 others. It was commissioned by Spanish musician Jordi Savall and is now sung every year in Spain as a prayer for peace in memory of those who lost their lives.
And Peace at the Last: Newly-released album by the Choir of the Basilica
The 2019 concert was broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and made into a full-length recording. And Peace at the Last is a live recording of this 2019 Concert for All Souls, which was one of the last public offerings from the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The disc includes works by Tallis, Bairstow, Palestrina, Bach, Howells, Nestor and others. The album, directed by Dr. Peter Latona, is available digitally everywhere now and is also available to purchase from the National Shrine Bookstore.
In 2020, the All Souls concert was recorded in the empty Upper Church of the Basilica and aired on EWTN due to pandemic restrictions. This year’s concert will be held on the Solemnity of All Souls on November 2nd at 7pm in the Crypt Church, and it will be open to the public. The Musicians of the Basilica dedicate this 2021 concert to the nearly 5,000,000 people worldwide and 728,000 in the United States who have died from the virus. We also dedicate it to the countless others who mourn their loss.
The Choir of the Basilica is eager to share this glorious music in the beauty of the Crypt Church and offer hope and healing. We hope you can join us for this spiritual concert and encourage you to listen to our recording And Peace at the Last.