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National Symphony Celebrates Anniversary

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 31, 2006; 3:35 PM

WASHINGTON -- The world premiere of "Missa Latina" _ a Latin mass with marimba, maracas, Cuban timbales and other Caribbean instruments added to the regular ensemble _ will mark the 75th anniversary of the National Symphony Orchestra on Thursday.

Called "Pro Pax" ("For Peace") by Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra, the work is the only item on the program and will get two more performances Friday and Saturday. The Washington Choral Arts Society, celebrating its 40th anniversary, will join with the orchestra.

"The title I chose _ 'Missa Latina' _ has a dual meaning," Sierra said in a statement.

"On the one hand it refers to the traditional Latin text, while on the other hand the work is infused with a `Latino' character: It is infused with the 'Caribbean gestures' that allude to my personal background, my own Hispanic heritage, and which color so much of my music."

Since 1969, the Roman Catholic mass is often sung in modern languages rather than Latin.

Sierra, 52, was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. A former composer in residence with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, he now teaches musical composition at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

© 2006 The Associated Press