Martin Baker – Festival Conductor
Born in Manchester in 1967, Martin Baker studied at the Royal Northern College of Music Junior School, Chetham’s School of Music and Downing College, Cambridge, then held positions at London’s Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedrals and Westminster Abbey before returning to Westminster Cathedral in 2000 as Master of Music, where he remained until 2019. During his time, he was responsible for directing the world-renowned choir in its daily choral program and busy schedule of concerts, tours and recordings.
Martin Baker is much sought after as an organist, playing frequent solo concerts in the UK and around the world. In addition to playing a wide repertoire he is known for his skill in improvisation, both liturgically and in concert, and was the winner of the Tournemire improvisation competition in St Albans in 1997. His first solo organ recording has just been released on the new Ad Fontes label from Buckfast Abbey, where he played the opening concert on the new Ruffatti organ in 2018. He teaches, both repertoire and improvisation, and has appeared on the juries of several international organ competitions.
He recently served as President of the Royal College of Organists and is an honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge.
Timothy McDonnell – Conducting Faculty
Widely recognized for his broad skill set and musicianship, Timothy McDonnell has earned a reputation for creativity and leadership on and off the podium. Mr. McDonnell has led several distinguished ensembles, including the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, and the Collier County Sinfonietta, in works from across the repertoire.
Equally at home in the orchestral and choral idioms, McDonnell’s performances have gained critical acclaim and national distinction. Mr. McDonnell is an enthusiastic musical collaborator, and his choral-orchestral partnerships include not only standard works such as the Symphony No. 9 of Beethoven and Carmina Burana, but also extend to less frequently performed masterpieces such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 and Franck’s Psyché. He has worked with some of the most renowned conductors in the world, including Andrey Boreyko, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Cristian Macelaru, and Robert Page. McDonnell has served as the Music Director of the Schola Nova Ensemble, Studio Lirico Opera Program, Elysium Concert Opera, the Symphonic Chorale of Southwest Florida, the Ars Laudis Festival Chorus & Orchestra, the choirs of Ave Maria University, and the North American College in Vatican City.
Mr. McDonnell’s performances with University ensembles have won national recognition. In 2013 McDonnell was a finalist for the American Prize in choral conducting for his performance of Mozart’s Requiem, and in 2014 he took third place in the 2014 American Prize for his performance of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem.
McDonnell’s compositions and arrangements have been performed by leading and regional ensembles, including the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Yale Repertory Orchestra, and the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra. Mr. McDonnell was a finalist for the 2014 American Prize in composition. A successful crossover and recording artist, McDonnell has arranged and conducted tracks released on Rob Hyman’s Monocle label.
McDonnell has prepared numerous performance editions. Through his work as conductor of the Schola Nova Ensemble, he has cultivated a sub-specialty in music for chamber ensemble drawn from every era. His arrangements of works by Gustav Mahler, Lehár, Bruckner, and Sibelius have increased the chamber orchestra repertory, and have been praised for their innovative use of limited instrumental forces.
Maestro McDonnell holds degrees from Yale University and the University of South Carolina.
Benjamin LaPrairie – Organ Faculty
Benjamin LaPrairie serves as Associate Director of Music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where he is heard accompanying daily, Sunday, and many televised Masses throughout the year. Notable liturgies include the Canonization Mass of Saint Junípero Serra, celebrated by Pope Francis, and the Funeral
Mass of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Previously, Benjamin served as Principal Organist at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., and as Director of Music at St. Patrick Catholic Church in St. Charles, Illinois.
As a composer, Benjamin’s works have been performed by the Choir, Brass, and Orchestra of the Basilica, and have been recorded and broadcast worldwide on EWTN, Salt and Light Media, and CatholicTV. His setting of Christus Vincit was premiered upon the entrance of Pope Francis into the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine in September of 2015. Recent works include a setting of Ye Sons and Daughters for the Choir and Orchestra of the Basilica, and a setting of Joy to the World for the choirs and orchestra of The Catholic University of America. As an organist, Benjamin has performed throughout the United States and abroad, and has been featured as a soloist with the Pine Mountain Music Fesival and at the Kimball Organ of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. Recent collaborations include a performance of Louis Vierne’sMesse Solennelleat the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
A native of Michigan, Benjamin is a graduate of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater, and Dance, where he studied organ with Robert Glasgow. He received a Master of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he studied organ with John Walker, and was the recipient of the Bruce R. Eicher Prize in Organ. Additionally, Benjamin did postgraduate coursework in music composition and voice at The Catholic University of America.
Peter Carter – Festival Organizer
Peter Carter is the Founder and Director of the Catholic Sacred Music Project. He also serves as the Director of Sacred Music of the Aquinas Institute of Princeton University and the Director of Sacred Music at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Allentown, New Jersey. He leads the parish chorister program and conducts a twenty-four voice semi-professional Schola Cantorum who sing for a weekly Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Mr. Carter holds degrees from Westminster Choir College, studying the organ with Alan Morrison and Daryl Robinson, conducting with Dr. James Jordan and Dr. Andrew Megill, and voice with Dr. Christopher Arneson.
He has sung and recorded with the Westminster Symphonic Choir, the Grammy® nominated Westminster Williamson Voices, The Same Stream, and The Lotus Project. He has performed as an organist in the United States and France and has played for televised liturgies on EWTN. As a clinician, he has led sacred music workshops throughout the United States and at the seminary of the Fraternity of St. Joseph the Guardian in the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France.
From 2019-2020, he served as co-host of Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast, interviewing prominent Church figures and musicians including Robert Cardinal Sarah, Olivier Latry, and Sir James MacMillan. In 2020, Mr. Carter directed the music for a Sarum Vespers which was sponsored by the Durandus Institute and thought to be the first Catholic Sarum liturgy in the United States. Since 2016, he serves as the director of liturgical music for the Pro Civitate Dei summer conferences hosted by the Fraternity of St. Joseph the Guardian in the United States, France, and Chile. In 2021, he founded The Catholic Sacred Music Project with an inaugural Choral Festival at the Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia with Sir James MacMillan featured as the festival conductor.