String and Wings (v. 8, issue 3)

Author: The Notre Dame Folk Choir

A Letter from the Directors

Karen Schneider Kirner, Assistant Director 

Happy Spring! Happy Lent! Students have just returned from Spring Break and we're heading into the final, frenzied weeks of Spring Semester 2018. As usual, there has been lots of activity on campus - never a dull moment! 

The Folk Choir is still providing music for Sunday night Lenten Vespers. Maggie James, daughter of Folk Choir Alumnus Mike James, has been alternating with my hubby Scott to provide harp accompaniment for these beautiful liturgies held in the nave of the Basilica. 

In late-January we had a rare meeting of Folk Choir Directors past and present, at the St. Louis Composers Forum (see photo). It was set up as a retreat, at Mercy Center, but allowed us time for reflection, conversation, and presentations by speakers such as Michael Joncas and Tom Booth. It was a delight to catch up with Folk Choir alumnus & fellow composer/campus minister John Kyler at the conference.

In early February we were able to meet, make music and record with three of J.J.'s musician friends: bassist Ike Sturm, guitarist Jesse Lewis, and Zack Harmon on drums. We were the first group to record in the new White Box Theater of the Music Department in the new Campus Crossroads. Look for our audio and video recording efforts to be released soon!

On Thursday, Feb. 15th, we were asked to sing a Memorial Mass in the Basilica for Sr. Mary McNamara, recent rector of Breen-Phillips Hall. It was the first time in my memory that a current rector of a hall passed away, and the student body turned out in full force to celebrate her life, well-lived.

In early March, we combined with other Basilica choirs and full orchestra for a Lenten concert, singing Gabriel Fauré's "Cantique de Jean Racine" and "Requiem." The concert was recorded, and we will share the link when it's available. It was a good collaboration effort, and the mass choir sang very musically together. J.J. directed the "Cantique" and Dr. Patrick Kronner from the Women's Liturgical Choir directed the "Requiem."

On March 8th, we had the wonderful experience of participating in a masterclass on Gregorian chant and Italian polyphony with J.J.'s former teacher from Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, Dr. Walter Marzilli. Dr. Marzilli who also came to campus to give a masterclass to M.S.M. students and teach conducting lessons to the D.M.A. students. His presentation was very engaging and quite unorthodox by our standards, but he had the students singing very musically, with a deeper understanding of the roots of music in our Church.

What's next? We're excited to announce that Danielle Rose (Folk Choir alumna, class of 2002) is returning on Tuesday of Holy Week to work with our students in small groups, and she'll lead music from 8-10pm in the Basilica for a campus-wide Reconciliation Service. Alumni who live in town are encouraged to come out for this, as well! I am personally super-excited to get to work with Danielle again!

The choir will provide music for Holy Thursday's Mass of the Lord's Supper, Good Friday Stations, and Easter masses at noon and 9:00 PM. We'd love to see any alumni on Easter morning for 9am Brunch in the first floor CoMo Lounge!

Some upcoming highlights of April, on top of our Easter season Sunday liturgies, is singing for the ordination of three new Holy Cross priests, a wedding of two Folk Choir "fans", a workshop with Pedro Rubalcava, and a rehearsal/Vespers with the Holy Cross religious community at Moreau Seminary.

In May, our last Sunday Basilica liturgy is on May 13th, Mother's Day, when we'll also make our annual pilgrimage to Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. We're also taking our music in May to Center for the Homeless, prior to our two-week Texas tour (yee hah!). And for the first time ever, we are joining with other Basilica and Music Department choirs to sing for Commencement!

I'll end my comments with June, so as to not exhaust you with all our activities! We have THREE Folk Choir alumni getting married in the Basilica on June 16th: former F.C. President Lynne Bauman to Peter Steiner for a 1pm wedding, and at 3pm, F.C. alumni Elizabeth Surat and Olaf Rodriguez. Steve and Michele Warner are coming back from Ireland to assist with these weddings, thankfully, as J.J.'s sister is getting married in Buffalo that same weekend.

We hope that any F.C. alumni in Texas will come out to our concerts there. Look for the complete posting of locations on our website. Keep a song in your heart, and continue to pray for the ministry of our ensemble, as we keep you all in our prayers each Thursday night, during the singing by candlelight of "Day is Done."

In Folk Choir Love and Joy,

Upcoming Events:

  • 4/22/18 - Notre Dame Day - please support the Folk Choir!!!

  • 5/13/18 - Concert at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. 

  • 5/14/18 - Concert at the Center for the Homeless, South Bend, IN. 
  • 5/21-6/3/18 - Texas Tour, stay tuned for location details. 


  • Alumni, please update your contact information at to stay in the loop with Folk Choir events.

  • Please forward this newsletter to someone who might be interested and encourage them to sign up!
  • We have posted tons of new videos! Subscribe to our Youtube channel to get notifications. 

2018-2019 Officer Election Results

President: Greg Demet

Social Commissioner: Clare Driscoll

Secretary: Jessica Hardey

Jj Steve Karen

J.J. Wright, Karen Kirner, Steve Warner, and John Foley (composer of "Come to the Water," "Cry of the Poor" and "One Bread, One Body" among others) at the Liturgical Composers Forum this past January.

Student Reflection
Maddie Loftin

It is difficult to detach my overall experience at Notre Dame from my experience with the Folk Choir. I joined the choir during the first semester of my freshman year, and since then, the Folk Choir community has been an integral part of both my social life and my prayer life.Sunday Mass is usually the highlight of my week; it’s filled with warmth and joy, with hugs during the Sign of the Peace, with dancing during the postlude, with my best friends in the world, and with God at the center of it all.

Going abroad for a semester has been a big step for me. I remember one of the first Sundays I was in Rome, I attended Mass at a local parish and realized that the hymnal didn’t have music notes. When I asked my host mom why this was, she shrugged and said that since most people attended the same service every week, they knew all of the regular songs and didn’t need the notes.

Since that Mass, I’ve only been to one other service with a choir. It was the first Sunday of Lent, and the congregation was able to process into Saint John Lateran with the priests, Eucharistic ministers, and choir members. I definitely teared up that evening; I realized just how much I missed being in the loft every Sunday and getting to be an active participant in the celebration.

The experience has made me think a lot about the importance of music ministry and inviting the congregation to participate. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like there’s a pane of glass between myself and the celebration; I often find myself getting frustrated by the language barrier, the lack of music, and the feeling that I don’t have a solid community in any parish here. But I’ve also experienced really beautiful spiritual moments here, and many of them have come from an invitation. A man in Venice asked me if I’d like to do the first reading at mass, and even though I had to decline, it made me feel extremely welcome. A church employee at a church in Naples discovered that my friend and I spoke English and invited us to help him correct the errors on the English language tour that he gave. A group of sisters that I’ve been volunteering with invited me to participate in prayer services and sing with them. Each experience has made me feel closer to the community and closer to God.

I think invitation is one of the things Folk Choir does best, and it’s something I’m looking forward to working on both as an individual and as a member of the FC community next year. As musicians, we have an incredible and beautiful responsibility to help tear down the barrier that some Catholics experience in the Mass. And as members of the Church, I think it’s also our responsibility to carry this spirit of invitation wherever we happen to go.

Featured Folkhead

Jacob Fries

Name: Jacob Fries
Section: Tenor I
Year: First Year
Major(s): Environmental Sciences, Latino Studies
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH

How long have you been singing, and what got you started? I have been singing as long as I can remember - especially with my parents at Mass or with little songs before bed. The first year I was allowed to be in my school's choir was 5th grade, and I have been in at least one vocal ensemble ever since then! I started playing piano in 2nd grade, and I think that fueled my love for music to spread to other areas (like singing!).

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Though this is tough, I would have to settle on my dad's classic breakfast entourage: scrambled eggs, bacon, and apple pancakes with a glass of orange juice. Nothing beats a meal like that on a Saturday morning!

What's your favorite book, and why?Again, this is a very tough call, but I would go with Beloved by Toni Morrison. The book follows the story of Sethe, a young mother who is also a runaway slave, and the decisions she must make in the face of many adverse circumstances. It explores some incredible themes, like what defines morality, all alongside a sharp critique of slavery-era America. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a more serious yet riveting read!

That's My Favorite Folk Choir Song!
"Jesus Lives" - by Annie Mattingly

Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite Folk Choir song, I struggle to find my answer. Not because I can’t think of anything, but because I can think of too many songs and then I can’t remember all their titles, let alone choose just one. If, however, you were to ask me my favorite time of year to sing with the choir - well, then the answer is much easier to find.

During my time with the choir, the weeks surrounding Easter have become my favorite time of year. I find it incredible that you can take all of these undergraduates (and a couple of grad students), put them through the liturgical marathon that is Holy Week, and they come out on Easter Sunday as joyful and prayerful as ever. From singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus to absolutely belting out verse 3 of “Out of Darkness” - music written to embody Easter joy is somehow made yet more joyful when sung in prayerful harmony by the members of the choir.

Though all of this joyous song consistently impresses me, one song never fails to leave me speechless: Chrysogonus Waddell’s “Jesus Lives.” Given the title, it comes as no surprise that each verse begins with “Jesus lives,” and continues to describe what those two simple words mean.

“Jesus lives” means that “thy terrors now can, o death, no more appall us.”

“Jesus lives” means that death is “but the gate to life immortal”.

“Jesus lives” means that we will know God’s love, and nothing - not “life nor death nor pow’rs of hell” - will tear us from Him.

The last verse, sung forte in four parts, ends with an emphatic Alleluia. “Jesus lives: to him the throne over all the world is given: may we go where he is gone, rest and reign with him in heaven. Alleluia!”

I don’t remember my first time singing “Jesus Lives” with the choir, but I do remember many rehearsals when, upon singing that final Alleluia, the whole choir went quiet for a few moments. Like the song created around us a sacred, prayerful space which no one wanted to disturb. And so we all sat there quietly, smiling at each other and reflecting on the words we had just sung. 

When that final Alleluia resonates in the Basilica, it lifts my heart with joy and gratitude - for the sacrifice our Lord made out of love for us, for the gift of singing with this choir, for so many things I may never be able to put to words. As we enter this Easter season, let us hold to that feeling, and may it resonate throughout our lives. Jesus lives! Alleluia!

Check out the following video of The Folk Choir singing the Gloria from Ariel Ramirez's Misa Criolla at the 2017 Concert for the Missions!