Annual Sacred Arts Festival opens Oct. 22 at University of St. Thomas

“A Season of Joy: The Nativity in Global Perspective," an exhibit in O'Shaughnessy Educational Center's Lobby Gallery during the university's 2009 Sacred Arts Festival, will feature selections from the Martha Spencer Rogers Crèche Collection at Westminster Presbyterian Church, including this crèche from Bolivia.

“A Season of Joy: The Nativity in Global Perspective," an exhibit in O'Shaughnessy Educational Center's Lobby Gallery during the university's 2009 Sacred Arts Festival, will feature selections from the Martha Spencer Rogers Crèche Collection at Westminster Presbyterian Church, including this crèche from Bolivia.

"Call to Prayer: A Global Yearning" is the theme of the 31st annual University of St. Thomas Sacred Arts Festival opening next week. The festival, open to the public, is a celebration of sacred art and an exploration of faith.

Festival events are free (unless indicated otherwise) and take place on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus. 

  • 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in Room 126 (auditorium), John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts: Award-winning American novelist Ron Hansen will read from his works.An Omaha, Neb., native, Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University, where he teaches courses in writing and literature. His novels frequently pair history with morality tales as well as Catholic themes of unconditional love, redemption and resurrection. 
    Ron Hansen

    Ron Hansen

    His 1983 novel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, as was his 1996 novel, Atticus, which also was a finalist for the National Book Award. His 1991 novel about a cloistered Catholic nun who apparently bears a stigmata, Mariette in Ecstasy, was lauded by critics and adapted for film and the stage. His 2008 novel, Exiles, tells the story of the 1875 shipwreck that prompted poet Hopkins write “The Wreck of the Deutschland,”  a 280-line poem considered a turning point in his career.

    Among Hansen’s other works are a collection of essays, A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction (HarperCollins, 2001); a book for children, The Shadowmaker (Harper/Trophy Books, 1986); screenplays, anthologies and short stories. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Creighton University in 1970; an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974; and an M.A. in spirituality from Santa Clara.

    In addition to numerous awards for his work, he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lyndhurst Foundation as well as the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

    In 2007 Hansen was ordained a permanent deacon of the Catholic Church, and in May he was inducted to the College of Fellows at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, Calif.

  • 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: Israeli singer/songwriter Yasmin Levy, who performs Nov. 1 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, will present “Noches son de enamorar,” a lecture demonstration of Sephardic music accompanied by Ishay Amir on darbuka (goblet drum) and Vardan Hovanissian on flute and clarinet.The event is presented in cooperation with the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and the Ordway. 
    Yasmin Levy

    Yasmin Levy (Photo: Gal Deren)

    The music of the Sephardic Jews of medieval Spain told stories in Ladino, a Romance language originating in Old Castilian and Hebrew. This musical tradition followed the Jewish Diaspora and was influenced on its journeys through Spain, Morocco and parts of the Ottoman Empire, including Greece, Jerusalem, the Balkans and Egypt. 

    Levy’s late father, Yitzhak Levy, a composer and cantor, was a pioneering researcher into the long and rich history of Ladino music and culture. Yasmin Levy, 33, has interpreted these song traditions by incorporating Andalusian flamenco and Turkish sounds. She has called her work a “musical reconciliation” of history.

    In her presentation at St. Thomas, Levy will explore the customs, culture and ritual, telling the stories of the songs and performing examples.

    Levy has earned nominations for awards from fRoots, a London magazine specializing in folk and world music, and the United Kingdom’s BBC Radio 3 classical, jazz, world music and arts network. In 2006 she received an award music from the Egypt-based Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation; she was recognized for promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation through her music. Last year she became a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a London-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conflict resolution in the Middle East.

  • 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7-8, in Baumgaertner Auditorium, Brady Educational Center: “Hidden Yearning” is a theatrical and dance presentation by Minneapolis artist Leili Tajadod Pritschet in collaboration with local artists and the Washington, D.C.-based Silk Road Dance Company. A discussion follows the evening performance.Tickets, available at the door and through VSA Arts of Minnesota, are $18 for general admission. Free tickets are available to 120 St. Thomas students at the St. Thomas Box Office. 
    Leili Tajadod Pritschet (Photo by Dan Seipp/Con Tiempo Productions)

    Leili Tajadod Pritschet (Photo by Dan Seipp/Con Tiempo Productions)

    Pritschet grew up in Iran and had a successful career as a dancer and performer there until the mid-1980s. After she spoke out against the political and religious oppression of the Khomeini regime, she was tortured for trying to flee. Because she was a dancer, she told Minnesota Public Radio in 2006, her knees were broken, her toes were crushed and her tendons were cut. Through the Twin Cities-based Center for Victims of Torture she ended up in Minnesota. Today she still limps and is considered disabled, but she’s still dancing.

    “Hidden Yearning” weaves Persian classical dance, multicultural music, video, the words of 13th-century Persian poet Rumi and Pritschet’s personal narrative. The result is a deeply spiritual reflection on the Islamic call to prayer.

  • Noon Monday, Nov. 9, in St. Thomas' Luann Dummer Center for Women, Room 103, O’Shaughnessy Educational Center: A discussion with award-winning Canadian organist and composer Rachel Laurin focuses on her experiences as a woman artist. Reservations are required as space is limited; send e-mail to or call (651) 962-6119. 
    Rachel Laurin

    Rachel Laurin

    Educated at the Montreal Conservatory, Laurin was twice awarded the Conrad-Letendre Prize and last year won the Holtkamp-American Guild of Organists Composition Competition. She was titular organist at Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral from 2002 to 2006 and now devotes most of her time to performing, composing and giving lectures and master classes. Among her upcoming commissions is a work for harp and organ to be performed at the American Guild of Organists 2010 national convention in Washington, D.C.

  • 8:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas: Laurin presents a recital on the Gabriel Kney organ.
  • 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10 in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas: “A Call to Prayer,” a demonstration of chants from various faith traditions. An interfaith discussion with the chanters follows.
  • 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas: Solemn vespers for All Souls’ Day. All Souls Day is celebrated in early November in the Catholic Church. This ecumenical service of liturgy and music, an opportunity to remember the dead and celebrate the communion of saints, includes psalms, petitions and music. Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, presides, and the university’s Women’s Choir will sing. Those present will be invited to sign a book of remembrance in honor of those deceased members of the St. Thomas community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and benefactors, their family members and friends.
  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: “The Message,” Moustapha Akkad’s 1976 film about the Prophet Muhammad and the roots of Islam.
  • Nov. 30-Jan. 15, in the Lobby Gallery of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center: An exhibit, “A Season of Joy: The Nativity in Global Perspective,” features selections from Westminster Presbyterian Church’s collection of 160 crèches from all over the world. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays.
    Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz
    Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz
  • 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, in O’Shaughnessy Educational Center auditorium: Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz, director of the Westminster Presbyterian Church gallery and archive, will present a lecture, “The Crèche in Many Languages.” A reception follows.

For more information, see the Sacred Arts Festival Web site.