Arvo Pärt’s new choral work to premiere in New York City

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s a cappella choral work, O Holy Saint Nicholas, will be premiered at the opening of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center Ground Zero site in New York City.

The piece will be performed by Schola Cantorum, a Boston, Massachusetts-based choir, and conducted by Benedict Sheehan, an American conductor.

The work was commissioned specially for the occasion by the Schola Cantorum and its founder and artistic director Nektarios S. Antoniou, who serves also as archdiocesan director of culture and principal cantor at the National Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York.

Schola Cantorum at Mary Jaharis Center Byzantine Art Center Inaugural Concert. Photo by Schola Cantorum.

A special event

The St. Nicholas Church was destroyed during the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The new church, opening two decades later in the immediate vicinity of the original location, is not meant to be an Orthodox church only, but will serve as a National Shrine that will be open to pilgrims from all around the world. The church was designed by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava Valls.

“The (re)opening of the St. Nicholas Church at Ground Zero, where the relics of the saints have become intermingled in the dust with the remains of the attack victims, is a special event for the whole Christian world. I am grateful that my music can be part of this occasion,” Arvo Pärt said in a statement.

Arvo Pärt. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

A prayer from the Orthodox liturgy

The new choral work, lasting approximately 15 minutes, is based on the English text of a prayer from the Orthodox liturgy, taken from the troparion of the feast day of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. “Arvo Pärt has used this same text before – in the third part of his choral work Triodion and in Russian in Alleluia-Tropus, a work written for vocal ensemble,” the Laulasmaa, Estonia-based Arvo Pärt Centre said in a statement.

Schola Cantorum specialises in Eastern Christian music, including Byzantine chant. In 2010, the choir was nominated for a Grammy Award with their featured album A Story of the City: Constantinople-Istanbul.

Arvo Pärt, born in Paide, Estonia, in 1935, was the world’s second most performed living composer in 2019, according to the classical music event database, Bachtrack.

Cover: Architectural Rendering by Santiago Calatrava Architects & Engineers: St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at the World Trade Center.

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