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Nestor (1948 - 2019)

Leo Nestor

L eo Nestor, KSG, (B.A., Music-Composition, California State University, East Bay; M.M., D.M.A., Choral Music, University of Southern California), was professor emeritus of choral and sacred music at The Catholic University of America Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, Washington, DC.

While on the faculty at CUA, he was Justine Bayard Ward Professor of Music, Director of Choral Studies, Director, Institute of Sacred Music, member of the conducting faculty and co-operating member of the composition faculty.

Dr. Nestor conducted the CUA Chamber Choir and University Singers, taught undergraduate conducting and guided the formation of graduate students in choral music and musica sacra.

Since 1990, Leo Nestor's works have been published principally by ECS Publishing, a division of the E.C. Schirmer Music Company, Boston. Other works appear in the catalogues of Oxford University Press, MorningStar Music, Oregon Catholic Press and Selah Publishing House. In 2011, Dr. Nestor began an association with GIA Publications for the publication of his liturgical and ritual music. In 2012 he initiated The Catholic University of America Series in MorningStar’s Music of American Colleges and Universities. In Spring 2013, his first work was published by CanticaNOVA Publications.

Dr. Nestor was among the four founding members (1984) and continues to serve as advisor (1996) to the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. As founder, conductor, and artistic director of the American Repertory Singers, a professional vocal ensemble specializing in the performance and recording of contemporary literatures, Dr. Nestor produced eight recordings on Arsis Audio, notably Come to Me: Love Songs by American Composers, and many seasons of new-issue recordings for his publisher E.C. Schirmer.

He served the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as musical advisor to the Secretariat for Divine Worship. He taught at Mount Saint Mary College, Los Angeles, and served as professor of conducting at Saint John University, Collegeville. From 1991-1998 he served as artistic advisor, member of the international jury, Comitato d'Onore, and conductor of the Coro Internazionale for L'Associazione Internazionale Amici della Musica Sacra in Rome. From January of 1984 through July of 2001, Dr. Nestor was music director at Washington DC's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

During his 2008 sabbatical, he served as composer-in-residence at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, collaborating daily with music director Gregory Glenn, the Cathedral Choir, Cathedral Choristers and Coro Latino de la Catedral, composing and conducting works for each ensemble, often with members of the Utah Symphony. With appropriate symmetry, Dr. Nestor’s final sabbatical concluded in August 2016 at The Madeleine with a month spent as composer-in-residence, during which time he fulfilled a commission from the cathedral, Misa María Magdalena, a Spanish-language setting of the ordinary of the Mass for chorus, chamber orchestra, percussion and organ. Nestor’s principal ritual compositional project was I Will Sing and Make Melody, a liturgical Psalter for the three-year Sunday cycle and major feasts.

Four commissions for the apostolic visits of Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis:

  • People of God in the City of Our God [Los Angeles 1987]
  • Magnificat [Saint Louis 1999]
  • Lord, You Give the Great Commission [Washington DC 2008]
  • Introit: How beautiful upon the mountains; Communio: What you hear in the darkness [Washington DC 2015]

Larger works have been composed:

  • In the Fullness of Time for chorus, soli and orchestra; The Catholic University of America 1984
  • Variations on Of the Father's Love Begotten for divisi chorus, large brass ensemble, percussion and organ; Kennedy Center Fortieth Anniversary Celebration, The Washington Chorus
  • Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Dwelling Place for chorus, chamber orchestra and organ; Los Angeles, 2009, for James Harold Vail, the composer’s mentor

Among Professor Nestor’s commissions and premieres:

  • O magnum mysterium for divisi chorus, brass ensemble and percussion for Paul Salamunovich and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, premiered at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles
  • American Songs and Ballads for chorus, violin, violoncello and guitar for the Capitol Hill Chorale
  • Four Part Songs from the Highlands for divisi chorus and flute for the composer’s alma mater, California State University, East Bay
  • An American Triptych for divisi chorus and organ for National City Christian Church
  • Four Anthems on Gregorian Themes for Randall Swanson and St. Clement’s Choir received its première performance at the Chicago 2006 AGO National Convention
  • Abide in Me (chorus and orchestra, 2007) for the installation of the Most Rev. John Charles Wester as Bishop of Salt Lake City
  • Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates (chorus, brass, percussion and organ, 2004) for the installation of the Most Rev. Paul Loverde as Third Bishop of Arlington
  • Strengthen for Service (2007) for the installation of Rev. William Byrne, St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill, the composer’s parish
  • Rise Heart Thy Lord Is Risen (2007) for University Christian Church, Fort Worth
  • A Marian Triptych: Rhapsody, Narrative and Prayer (2007) for the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Montclair, New Jersey
  • Joy! Because the Circling Year for chorus and organ, commissioned by the America Guild of Organists for its 2010 National Convention,
  • This Is The Hour of Banquet and of Song (chorus and orchestra, 2010) premiered at the Mass of installation of CUA president John Garvey
  • Regina caeli, lætare for chorus, organ and trumpet for the Most Reverend Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston
  • I Sing of a Maiden for The Catholic University of America Choruses and Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 Christmas concert in loving memory of beloved friend and cherished colleague Richard Proulx

Two new recordings of The Catholic University of America Chamber Choir, Sing for the Morning’s Joy and Mozart Requiem with the CUA Symphony Orchestra are scheduled for release.

In recognition of his life’s work in the Church, Pope Francis bestowed knighthood in the Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory upon Dr. Nestor, conferred by Donald Cardinal Wuerl on 14 May 2016.

Leo Cornelius Nestor, after receiving the last Sacraments of the Church, died on Sunday, September 22, 2019.

CanticaNOVA Publications is honored to offer the music of Dr. Nestor in our catalog:


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