Getting her start at the University of Notre Dame, DPAC is excited to have alumna Mary Catherine Levri DMA ’17 grace the Reyes Organ and Choral Hall yet again. Currently, Levri serves as the professor of music at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology in Cincinnati, as well as the director of its Sacred Music Institute, which is dedicated to the performance of the great works of the sacred music tradition and the education of Catholic church musicians.
Ranging from all composers in the sacred canon, Levri is sure to dazzle the audience with the excitement of composers like Bach and Peeters on September 25, 2022, at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. We asked her about the importance of performing and preserving sacred music. Here are her answers.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring artists?
Cherish the gift you have been given. The ability to make music — or any art — in an excellent way is a rare one. Never take it for granted!
Do any of the pieces in your program have special significance to you?
I purposefully chose a number of pieces for this program that have a direct connection to sacred sung text. The reason for this is that I have found sung melody to be a wonderful portal into the world of the pipe organ for my students, who are seminarians, preparing for a life of service in the Church.
While most of them do not know who Buxtehude, Scheidemann, Krebs, or Peeters are, they do have the experience of chanting the psalms, and the sacred texts of antiphons and hymns, at the beginning and end of each day. When I am able to share organ music with them that is rooted in the tradition of sacred song, they make an immediate connection with the music that might not have been possible without their experience of singing at the Seminary.
While I hope that the program of music I’ve chosen for this recital can give those who listen a window into the work that my education at Notre Dame has prepared me to do, I also hope to share this music with my students, when the Seminary chapel receives a wonderful new pipe organ next spring.
What is the most rewarding part of playing the organ?
To me, the greatest part of playing the organ is the mystery of learning and performing a piece of music. It’s nothing short of a miracle when a piece comes together in your ear, mind, and heart, and then you have the privilege of giving it back, so to speak, to those who are willing to listen. It is blessed work and a blessed profession.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career as a professional organist?
I don’t think that there was ever a singular moment in which I realized it. One thing led to another, I was blessed with wonderful teachers, I said yes to some opportunities, and it happened!
How often do you practice?
Not enough! These past months, I’ve tried for five or six days a week, two hours a day. It’s not always possible, with professorial duties at the Seminary, but it’s been rewarding to commit myself to continual regular practice.
What does it feel like to return to Notre Dame after graduating?
Like a delight. I’m thrilled to be back.
We thank Mary Catherine Levri for her answers. Buy tickets today for her sure-to-amaze performance this Sunday!