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Rick Kvam, Choral Arts Ensamble artistic director

Choral Arts Ensemble has been based and has performed at Assisi Heights since 1996, and is ready to offer a concert in gratitude.

"In Giving We Receive," the ensemble's season-opening concert, is a tribute to the Sisters of St. Francis and their important role in Rochester's development over the past 140 years. The concert is presented Saturday and Sunday at Assisi Heights.

"We just wanted to celebrate what an amazing collection of women this order is, and how they've contributed over the years," said Rick Kvam, Choral Arts founder and director. "It's astonishing how they've had their hands in shaping the whole region."

The sisters are best known for convincing Dr. William W. Mayo to open what became Saint Marys Hospital -- the foundation for Mayo Clinic. But the sisters have also staffed schools and colleges, engaged in social justice advocacy, and helped found several nonprofit organizations.

Wrapping all of that into a concert is a challenge, Kvam said. "We can't possibly cover everything in one concert," he said.

The concert starts with a favorite psalm of Mother Alfred, who arrived in Rochester in 1877. The psalm, "Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act," is a Gregorian chant. Subsequent pieces  of music reflect on verses found engraved in Lourdes Chapel at Assisi Heights.

The first half of the concert will also feature a short Mass, with a Kyria, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei by a variety of composers, before concluding with John Rutter's "Lord, Make Me An Instrument of Thy Peace," a prayer attributed to St. Francis.

The second half the concert will focus on individual sisters who have had major impacts on the community, including a song for each of the five who were administrators of St. Marys: Mother Alfred, Sister Mary Joseph, Sister Domatilla, Sister Mary Brigh and Sister Generose.

There will also be musical tributes to Sister Jane Francis and Sister Margeen, who were early leaders of the Gift of Life house, and Sister Genevieve Speltz and Sister Joy Barth, who were instrumental in providing a home at Assisi Heights for Choral Arts Ensemble.

Also on the program is a commissioned piece, "In Pursuit of That Perfection,"  by Minnesota composer Carol Barnett -- the first of four commissioned pieces this season written by women.

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