Strings and Wings (v. 8, issue 2)

Author: The Notre Dame Folk Choir

A Letter from the Director

J.J. Wright 

Happy Advent! I am writing to after having (nearly) completed my first semester as the Director of the Folk Choir and after Welcome Weekend, two weddings, seven home football weekends, the Concert for the Missions, Advent Lessons and Carols, and booking our entire Texas Tour for Spring 2018! Needless to say, the Fall has kept me, Karen, and the choir really busy!

The choir has grown tremendously throughout the semester and I’d like to rewind a bit and invite you into one of the rituals that we’ve incorporated throughout the semester.

The year started out with a great tragedy - Felicia Driscoll, the mother of one of our choir members, Clare, and personal friend of our family, passed away from cancer. While grappling with such a great loss, it was incredibly beautiful to witness the impact that Felicia had on the South Bend community. Felicia truly modeled what it means to live and die beautifully. The students in the Folk Choir came together to support Clare in a way that I haven’t witnessed before and they offered their song during a Vespers service on the vigil of the funeral. Clare told me after the service how much comfort it gave her to look across her mother’s casket and see all her friends singing the music that has been so close to her heart during her time at Notre Dame.

My children attend a Montessori school that was founded by Clare’s parents. One of the things my children have learned to do at school is affirmations: the children regularly gather in a circle and affirm something positive they noticed about another student: an act of kindness, an exceptional effort in facing a challenge, an act of service to the classroom community. Just as important as giving the affirmation is receiving it graciously with eye contact and a simple ‘thank you’. In response to Felicia’s example, we have started to regularly incorporate affirmations into our Folk Choir routine. It’s been a special way to walk with Clare during this difficult time, honor this mother and friend, and continue her legacy of education by choosing to encounter the dignity of each person.

During this Advent season, as we prepare our hearts for Jesus’s coming, please keep the Folk Choir in your prayers and know that we remember all of you, our alumni, friends, and benefactors, in prayer every Thursday night at the end of rehearsal.


  • 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!
  • New videos of the Folk Choir are coming! Subscribe to our Youtube channel to get notifications. 

Upcoming Events:

  • 12/12/17 - Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 5:15, Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  

  • 1/11-1/14/18 - Retreat at New Melleray Abbey in Peosta, IA.

  • 1/21/18 - First Mass back in the Basilica for the Spring semester.
  • 5/21-6/3/18 - Texas Tour, stay tuned for location details.  

Concert For The Missions

This photo is from the Folk Choir's annual 'Concert For the Missions', benefiting Yancana Huasy, a Holy Cross international mission located in Canto Grande, Lima, Peru. The mission is unique in its preferential care for impoverished children with disabilities and commitment to hope, dignity and life. Thanks to everyone who attended or viewed the concert and for supporting such an important cause.

Photo by Matt Cashore

Student Reflection
Emma Beaudoin

How do you define family?

Many people think of family as their blood relatives, or the people raised them. Others think of family in a more abstract sense, as a community of people that have been with them through their greatest trials and triumphs. I was blessed to grow up in a loving household with parents and siblings who love me and have supported me in everything I have done. My small Catholic grade school and high school communities were also like families to me; places where I found support and comfort throughout my school years.

When I chose to attend Saint Mary’s College a year and a half ago, I hoped that by the end of my college career I would feel a part of the sisterhood of Saint Mary’s. Indeed, I have already found friends that have been there for me and who I hope will continue to be in my life for many years to come. However, I did not expect to find a family in a choir.

In August of last year, I took the Transpo bus from Saint Mary’s to the unfamiliar realm of the Notre Dame campus. I have distant connections to Notre Dame but had never actually been to the school. Nervous and lost, I got off the bus at Hesburgh Library, typed “Coleman-Morse Center” into my Maps app, and started on the roundabout route that my phone had seen fit to take me. I arrived in CoMo late, and trekked up the stairs to the third floor. Upon opening the door I heard the sound of choral warm-ups from down the hall and assumed I was in the right place. I opened the door to Room 329, not knowing that the people I heard singing would soon become like another family.

It is without hesitation that I say that the Folk Choir has become another family to me. I sincerely believe that the beautiful, smiling faces I see each Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday belong to the kindest people I have met in my life. I look forward to every rehearsal and Mass because the people I am with genuinely care about me and what is going on in my life. There have been many times in the past year and a half when Folk Choir has been my lifeline, the one constant thing I can hold onto when my day, week, or month has been a roller coaster. It is in those moments that I most appreciate the compassion and sincerity of the Folk Choir. I may not always show it, but in those times when my world is upside down, every smile I see, hug I receive, and “how are you” I hear reminds me that I am loved and exceptionally blessed.

Even within the choir, I am lucky to have grown close with the four other Folk Choir Smicks (Saint Mary’s women). To me, they represent elements of both the sisterhood of Saint Mary’s and the immense love and joy of my Folk Choir family. We spend a lot of time traveling to and from Masses and rehearsals, and they never fail to make me laugh on our car trips and bus rides over to Notre Dame. I love seeing them around campus as well. I know that they will always be there to support me whenever I need them.

A year and a half ago, I was extremely nervous to audition for the Folk Choir. I almost considered cancelling, and instead going to Orientation weekend events at Saint Mary’s with my friends. If I had known then how important this choir would become to me, I would never have hesitated. My college experience would be completely different if I had not joined the Folk Choir. I would be a completely different person without the Folk Choir. Luckily, God led me to this faith-filled, joyful family, and I will always be thankful.

Featured Folkhead

Claire Whalen


Name: Claire Whalen
Section: Alto (II)
Year: First Year
Major(s): Psychology & Pre-Medicine
Hometown: Greenwood, IN

What is the Folkiest thing you've experienced as a newbie so far? I think either Folkchoirween, when each class dresses up thematically, or spontaneously breaking into full song (with harmony, of course!). It is so unique to hear a group of college students go from singing the current pop songs to liturgical songs with the exact same, if not more, enthusiasm without blinking an eye.

Basses or Tenors, and Why? I actually would have to go with basses because tenors are usually favored: they can sing pretty hight and a lot of popular singers are tenors. I'm going with basses because they don't get a lot of attentions; additionally, it is really incredible how deep their voices can go. They produce a really rich and amazing sound! And of course, when Folkheads are assigned to carry the folder cases, "basses on cases" rhymes!

What's your favorite hobby outside of singing? Anything to do with sports - so either watching or playing them. I love to run, and I also play basketball. I'm a bit of a "sports nut," and you can often find me watching whatever is on ESPN when I'm home.

That's My Favorite Folk Choir Song!
"Tune My Heart According to Your Will" - by Patrick Shields

At the beginning of Thursday rehearsals, after singing through several warm up exercises, the instrumentalists take a moment to tune their instruments to the same pitch as the piano. This act prepares them to play in harmony with one another. In much the same way, “Tune My Heart” prepares my heart to be in harmony with God’s will and with those around me. The invitation this song presents is one of the most difficult in the Christian life: to put aside my own wants and desires and to align my will to God’s. Indeed, this is no easy task.

One of the lines that resonates most with me comes at the end of the first, second, and third verses: “In God’s will is our peace.” I find this to be especially poignant because it echoes the response given by a soul on the outermost edge of heaven in Dante’s Paradiso, when questioned about her contentment being so far removed from the center: “In His will is our peace.” God’s will is difficult to know and many times difficult to follow, but in this exhortation, this appeal, I ask God to give me the wisdom to know His will, the strength to follow it, and the awareness to recognize His peace.

I’m not sure at what point during my time in Folk Choir I first heard “Tune My Heart,” but this piece has become an integral part of my prayer life. When times are trying and my heart is yearning for peace, I often find myself humming the words. Through praying these words over the years, I have found that they have allowed me to come to a profound realization about myself and to make a subtle confession. The realization is that my will sometimes doesn’t align with God’s, and the confession is that I don’t always want what God wants. But there is also something deeper in these words: there’s a supplication, as if saying, “I want to want what He wants.” I think what matters most is that intentionality, that recognition that I am flawed, and that by wanting what he wants, I can, by the grace of God rise above my own wants and find His peace.