Heavenly notes

Le Moyne celebrates Pauline Year with Mendelssohn orotorio

by Luke Eggleston
Sun staff writer

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI asked that 2009 be dedicated specifically to St. Paul.

In accordance with the pontiff’s wishes, the Syracuse Diocese is hosting a number of events in honor of St. Paul.

In addition, the diocese asked that Le Moyne College participate in the Pauline Year.

On Sunday, March 2, Le Moyne’s Sanzone Center for Catholic Studies and Theological Reflection will present excerpts from Felix Mendelssohn’s St. Paul Oratorio, Op. 36, at Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter’s Church, 301 Ash St., Syracuse.

The oratorio was first perfomed on May 22, 1836 at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Dusseldorf, Germany. The first part recounts the stoning of Stephen (the first Christian martyr) and the miracle of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. It closes with Ananias commissioning Paul as a Christian minister. The second part relates to Paul and Barnabas becoming the ambassadors and evangelists of the Christian church.

The Sanzone Center was established through a $1 million gift from the Sanzone family. It began with a lecture series but has grown to include the certificate program for pastoral ministry and the Dominica-Service Learning Project.

A parishioner, Le Moyne’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Linda LeMura, selected Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter’s for the performance.

According to the center’s director, Father Don Maldari, SJ, music was selected in order to provide a break from study groups and lectures. Father Maldari is the center’s first permanent director.

The event will not be entirely without instruction. Conductor Andrew Russo and Rev. J. Mark Lawson will offer two brief presentations before the performance.

Russo will address Mendelssohn himself, as well the libretto, which is derived directly from the Acts of the Apostles. Russo, who is the director of Le Moyne’s music program, lived in Mendelssohn’s hometown of Hamburg, Germany, for several years and also studied at the music institute there.

The performers are from Le Moyne College, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and the Syracuse University Oratorio Society.

“We are fortunate in our community to have so many talented artists so this came together fairly easily,” Russo said.

The vocalists are Syracuse University faculty member Janet Brown and Le Moyne music instructor Bob Allen.

Like LeMura, Russo has a strong connection to Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter’s. The church was his grandparents’ home parish and his father coached the school’s basketball team.

The performance will include a one-hour excerpt from the full oratorio.
Lawson, a New Testament scholar and the pastor of United Church of Bayberry in Liverpool, is an adjunct professor at Le Moyne. Lawson’s presentation will focus more specifically on St. Paul.

“I’m going to give an overview of who Paul is and what makes him so complicated,” Lawson said. “Paul sparks a lot of controversy. I’m going to discuss how we need to interpret Paul and why it’s important to interpret him in a contemporary context.”

Buses will be available for Le Moyne students who wish to attend the event. A free-will offering will be accepted

For more information, call
(315) 445-4573.

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