On 14 November, the nation’s capital was the scene for the world premiere of Richard Danielpour’s newest work Washington Speaks, as narrator Ted Koppel joined the Orchestra of St. Luke’s conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine KCSG. Commissioned by the Knights of Columbus, the work premiered at Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of Nostra Aetate — the Second Vatican Council’s historic and groundbreaking 1965 document on interfaith relations that launched a new positive dialogue between Catholicism and Judaism.
Levine noted at the premiere, “It is important and fitting that our national concert “Rejoice In This Land” include not only an American work but also a world premiere. We set out first to identify a text that was uniquely American. We found it very close to home in the words of our first president, George Washington. Over the course of his public life, he wrote missives of tolerance and religious freedom to the Catholic community, the non-Catholic Christian community, the Quakers and Jewish communities of our nascent American land. Excerpts of these letters were selected and then set to music by the extraordinarily gifted major American composer Richard Danielpour.”
Levine continues, “It was His Holiness Pope John Paul II’s wish to have this concert... take place in Washington, DC. A number of cities across three continents were considered, but His Holiness thought America, a land of such great religious diversity and with such a rich tradition of religious tolerance, was the ideal place from which to have the message of Nostra Aetate go forth musically.”