FEW WEEKS AGO, I had the opportunity to sing in a concert under Peter Philips’ direction. In that program was three pieces by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. I sang his music (Berliner Messe) for the first time when I was a freshmen in college and it was very nice to be able to sing in his unique “Tintinnabuli“, or bell-like, style again after so many years (we did Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and Tintinnabuli).
Arvo Pärt is one of the winners of this year’s Ratzinger Prize, which is often regarded as the Nobel Prize in the field of theology. The Ratzinger Foundation awards was created in 2011 to recognize the work of academics in theology, whether they are Catholic or not. Before this award, Pärt also received a honorary doctorate in sacred music by the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and was nominated by Benedict XVI, member of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Pärt is an Orthodox and one of the most-recognized composers in the area of sacred music. He is a very spiritual person and has great love for the liturgy, just like Pope Benedict. I shared a video of him earlier this year and it shows that Pärt is very deeply rooted in the faith. He and the other award winners were received by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI himself on November 17; and the prize was presented to him by Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace on the following day.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and a member of the Ratzinger Foundation said this about Arvo Pärt at a press conference:
“He is the greatest living contemporary musician, with an immense and extraordinarily high production, able to combine the great legacy of the past, including Gregorian chant, with today’s new musical grammar. A beautiful choice, that of the commission, aimed at pointing out that new way for theology that is music”
Photo credit: Arvo Pärt Centre
Pärt said in his vote of thanks later that evening:
“I am personally very touched and grateful – especially to you, the members of the Joseph Ratzinger or Pope Benedict XVI Foundation – for this trust and honor. However, it is not an easy task to remain worthy of this honor as a human being. It is a great challenge. We are not dealing here with an ordinary merit that one could use to boast.
Dear brothers, we need your help, please don’t leave us alone now. This is what we plead from you.”
And here is a work by Pärt, Cecilia, Vergine Romana performed at the Concert in honor of the Holy Father in 2011.
Happy belated Feast Day!!! St. Cecilia, pray for us!