The musicians of the Basilica strive to transform hearts and minds through the power and beauty of sacred music in the Roman Catholic Liturgy. They are guided by the belief that inspired liturgy leads to a transformation, deepening and awakening one’s faith. To share insight into how this beautiful vision is made a reality, Dr. Peter Latona, Music Director of the National Shrine, speaks about his experience.
Today, Dr. Latona takes readers behind the scenes, sharing his intent for how audiences experience the sacred music of the Basilica, and what he has learned as music director of the largest Catholic Church in North America.
This month marks your eighteenth anniversary at the Basilica. As you look back over the years at the Basilica, how would you describe the development of the music program?
This is actually my eighteenth year as music director but the twenty-second year since I began working at the Basilica, as I was hired as assistant organist back in 1997. Over the years I believe the level of talent has continued to increase. The caliber of singers, for example, is truly amazing. Challenging choral literature which may have required several rehearsals is now nearly spot-on at first reading. But more importantly, I think the musicians, singers and organists alike, have a stronger sense of their role as Liturgical musicians; they understand the impact that their artistry can have and they strive with like-mindedness to fulfill their mission of transforming hearts and minds through the power and beauty of music.
What do you hope those who hear the Basilica Choir experience?
I really want those who listen to our music to be lost in the sheer beauty of the music. I don’t want them to think of it as a “performance” or think of labels such as “that’s modern, contemporary, traditional” – but rather to just experience beauty and be transported out of the mundane into whatever place they need to be at that moment.
Are there any interesting facts about the Music Department or instruments of the Basilica that you would like to share?
Some may find it interesting to know that we all really love our work here at the Shrine and have great fun doing it. The team in the music office is not only talented and serious about our work but fun to be with. The choir, too, has a great sense of camaraderie with many strong friendships; this is not always the case in professional ensembles.
Dr. Peter Latona is the Director of Music for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. View his full bio.
Many thanks to Bridgette Wargovich, Director of Music and Organist at Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich, MA, for conducting this interview with Peter Latona. Bridgette received her DMA in Organ Performance from Boston University and is dedicated to preserving and promoting the musical treasure of the Church.
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