Members of the Choir of the Basilica sing Dvoråks Mass in D Major at the National Shrine. Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka was the celebrant of the Sept. 25 Mass.
Members of the Choir of the Basilica sing Dvoråks Mass in D Major at the National Shrine. Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka was the celebrant of the Sept. 25 Mass.
The Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception reverberated with the glorious music of Antonin Dvořák Sept. 25 at a special Mass celebrating the milestone anniversaries of two of the Czech Republic's most famous native sons.

Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka, on his first visit to Washington, D.C., offered the Mass in honor of the 170th birthday of Czech composer and to mark the 200th anniversary of the year of St. John Neumann's birth. The Choir of the Basilica sang Dvořák's Mass in D Major.

During the Mass - which was offered in both Czech and English - prayers were offered to "praise and thank the Lord for our great countrymen who showed the world the best of the Czech culture." Both Dvořák and St. John Neumann were born in Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic.

Dvořák, who died in 1904, was a prolific composer of operas, choral and chamber music, symphonies and other musical works. A devout Catholic, he also composed much religious music. His best known work is his Symphony No.9, "From the New World" (frequently called the New World Symphony) which was inspired by his visit to America. Astronaut Neil Armstrong chose to listen to this music during his historic landing on the Moon.

Dvořák's other well-known works include the Slavonic Dances, the Cello Concerto in B Minor and opera Rusalka. In addition to his Mass in D Major, his major religious compositions include the Stabat Mater, the Requiem in B Flat Minor and the Te Deum.

St. John Neumann was ordained a Redemptorist priest and came to America where he was eventually named bishop of Philadelphia. He founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States.

More than 500 people attended last Sunday's Mass, including Petr Gandalovic, the Czech ambassador to the United States; other Czech embassy officials, and many Catholics of Czech descent. The Mass was offered in both Czech and English.

Archbishop Duka noted that Dvořák "courageously embraced the New World without getting lost in it." He urged those at the Mass "who came to the United States to be among free people" not to forget their religious roots.

"This Marian basilica is a good place to remind ourselves that we are all responsible for the character of the United States," the archbishop said. "We may well could fall into chaos or fear of the future, but we need only to look upon her who is the patroness of this shrine."

The Mass in D Major was flawlessly performer by the Choir of the Basilica as it was originally composed: for solo voices, small choir and organ. Under the direction of Peter Latona, the choir sang the Mass's Kyrie eleison, Gloria, Ave Maria, Preface Acclamation and Agnus Dei.

In addition to the Dvořák masterpiece, the choir also sang works by two lesser known Czech composers: Qui confídunt in Dómino by Krystof Harant and Latetentur et exultant by Josef Capka Drahlovsky.