Leo Nestor was my choral director in Washington DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for one year a long time ago. He was brilliant. I made my national cable TV debut (EWTN, but hey, it’s still national) singing Barber’s “Crucifixion” from the Hermit Songs on Good Friday. The only reason I left after a year (or was it two? I don’t remember) was because I was offered a gig at St. Patrick’s in DC that didn’t involve a weeknight rehearsal, and at the time, I thought that might be a good thing for my first marriage (Spoiler: it didn’t help).
I coined the term “mezzoid” in response to Leo’s request for the “altoids” to sing something. Apparently he continued to use it after I was gone. I am so proud.
Leo was profane and devout, nurturing and harsh, humorous and deadly serious. He was also one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever worked with in my life. I’ve worked with temperamental “geniuses” before and since. None of them were people with whom I’d work again if I could avoid it. Leo was someone I wish I’d had the opportunity to work with after my return to the East Coast.
Even though I only worked with him briefly, Leo Cornelius Nestor was one of the most influential musicians I’ve ever known.
If you want to know more about Leo (and you should, especially if you are a church musician – and if you’re not now, you very well may be), please read my friend and colleague John Boulanger’s blogpost here. He knew Leo better than I did and goes into much greater depth about him as a composer, conductor, and Catholic than I ever could.