Judith Cohen Lechter’s composition, Nostra Aetate: Oratorio for World Peace will have its world premiere at The Vatican on October 28

Judith Cohen Lechter is a both a composer and opera soprano, and has earned a solid reputation for her contributions to classical music. As incredible as it may sound, the Montreal-based composer and soloist will be performing in the world premiere of her Oratorio Nostra Aetate at The Vatican on October 28, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Vatican II Declaration made by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

“When I first became aware of the Nostra Aetate declaration by Vatican II, I was fascinated and excited by the beauty of the document’s theme of reaching out to other religions, with a focus on the Jewish religion. I was moved by the language and decided that I could put the text to music. Nostra Aetate is a gift from The Vatican to the world, and I believe that I can help make it better known through music.”

“It is my goal to bring a message of World Peace through this dramatic and world-altering declaration; which I have set to original music which I composed for orchestra, choruses and soprano soloist. It’s a message of peace and goodwill to all people throughout the world.”

There is an almost incomprehensible amount of work that Judith had to undertake – to take her concept from an idea to a composition written for a full orchestra, adult chorus and 300 voice children’s choir. After her initial research, the composition and orchestration came first. She worked with the local Archdiocese to make contact with the appropriate people in The Vatican to tell them of her project, and to seek the Vatican’s endorsement.

Like most organizations – the Vatican has a committee. “I prepared a detailed presentation booklet, and provided them with cd recordings of some of the passages.” In answer to my question, Judith confirmed that she had to hire a lot of musicians to record the samples of her Oratorio. “At one time, my Vatican contacts told me that 99.5% of all submissions are rejected. They weren’t trying to discourage me – they were just being honest.” All of Judith’s hard work as a composer and marketer finally gave results. “I was told that my composition had been accepted, and that our World Premiere performance would be on October 28, the actual 50th anniversary of the release of Nostra Aetate.”

The Vatican II Declaration notes that there are great similarities in the world’s major religions. The U.S. Congress passed a resolution acknowledging Nostra aetate at forty, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. also noted this anniversary. This is in addition to the marking of the occasion at the Vatican’s Gregorian University itself and at major centers of Christian-Jewish understanding around the United States. As the 50th anniversary approaches, the world could well use a unifying force that builds upon our common beliefs.

Judith continues; “My concept of setting Nostra Aetate to music was born in the passion of dedication toward drawing mankind together in harmony and friendship; acknowledging our human sameness while respecting our differences and embracing the celebration of all religions of the world.”

Continuing, Judith states; “For our Vatican premiere, we’ll have a full orchestra, an adult choir and a 300 voice children’s choir. We will then perform at Carnegie Hall, and we have an April 17 date for Toronto.”

It’s an incredible accomplishment on many fronts; the ability to set the words of Nostra Aetate to music, to hire musicians to ‘test’ and record excerpts, to prepare a multi-element presentation package and to being absolutely convincing in presenting the work to the Vatican committee.

Bravo! to Judith Cohen Lechter for Nostra Aetate: Oratorio for World Peace

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