Pray Tell has received word from Dr. Kevin O’Brien that composer and teacher Leo Nestor died in the early hours of the morning today, Sunday, September 22nd, 2019.
Nestor’s body weakened in recent days, but his mind never lost any of its famous acuity. On Friday he was anointed and received Communion. He spoke of the joy he had known in composing and conducting for the church and in teaching. He spoke of wanting forgiveness from anyone he had wronged. He was at his peace. “I have my faith. I have my hope,” are among the last things he said.
Nestor earned his BA in music from California State University, East Bay, and his masters and DMA in choral conducting from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He was among the four founding members of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians in 1984. From 1984 to 2001 he was music director at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. He was the Justine Bayard Ward professor of music and director of choral studies at the Catholic University of America from 2001 to 2016. His extensive choral and congregational compositions for the liturgy were published by many publishers. Four times he was commissioned to write works for pastoral visits of popes to the United States – for John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. In 2016 he received knighthood in the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory from Pope Francis for his service to the church.
He is survived by his elder sister, Connie, and her two children. He had asked that in lieu of flowers he wished donations to be made to the Little Sisters of the Poor, who cared for Leo and Connie’s sister, Patricia, in her final months.
A tribute concert for the deceased had already been in the works for early in 2020 at Saint Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill. Further arrangements are pending.
May he rest in peace.