Strings and Wings (vol. 8, issue 1)

Author: The Notre Dame Folk Choir

A Letter from the Director

Associate Director, Karen Schneider-Kirner
Transitions. Life is full of them. I write this just as I reached the 20th anniversary milestone of my association with the Notre Dame Folk Choir. Where did the years go? They are a rich tapestry of rehearsals, masses, planning sessions, tours, officer meetings, concession stands, shared meals and conversations with the many marvelous students and staff that have been a part of our graced ensemble over the years. And God has watched over us through all our labors.

We started off the year dramatically this semester. On the same day day our students were returning to campus, a funeral mass was held in the Basilica for one of our Folk Choir alumni, 27-year old Brett Ensor, who lost a courageous one-year battle with a brain tumor

A few days later, we sang an evening prayer memorial service at Little Flower Parish in South Bend for 53-year old Felicia Driscoll, mom of current choir member Clare Driscoll. And I have recently returned from a week in Southern Indiana after my mom, Estelle Schneider, lost a one-month battle with brain cancer.

In the midst of the pain of all these losses, where we are reminded how fleeting our time is on earth, we can be assured that God is in all things. God is present in the chaos of our lives as well as the joys. There are signs all around us of resurrection and rebirth.

After losing 23 of last years’ members to graduation, we recently welcomed 24 new students into the fold of the ever-loving and joyful Folk Choir, who are eager to share their time and talents. We also have a dynamic team of incoming officers who are working hard behind the scenes to insure a smooth transition from last years’ amazing officers. Elizabeth Schleicher is back from maternity leave and after 35 years of devoted direction by Steve Warner, the Folk Choir finally has a new permanent director, J.J. Wright.

I’ll leave J.J.’s bio for you to look up on the web, as most of you reading this have probably done that already! I can tell you that J.J. is a man of faith and family, compassion and good humor, a talented musician/composer, organist/pianist, dynamic conductor and a great, supportive colleague. There is indeed much hope for the future. We’ve dedicated this choir to the protection of St. Brigid, St. Cecilia and Our Lady. We are truly striving to do God’s work through our music-making and with the generous resources bestowed upon us.

Several of you have asked “what about the guitar?” Rest assured, the guitar is still an integral part of our ensemble. My husband Scott has been graciously volunteering to play for us on Sunday mornings since last Fall. He is well-familiar with using the guitar as a sensitive liturgical instrument, and even owns the Martin guitar that Steve used for years in the loft. We also allow talented students to play occasionally, as we did last semester and on our May Heartland Tour, as we’re all about fostering sacred musicians for the next generation.

We invite you to come to campus, meet J.J.and come hear the choir for yourself! The doors are still open for you to drop by our Sunday morning rehearsals, 10am-10:40am in Coleman Morse 329 if you are here over the weekend. If you’re here during the week, we still rehearse for 90 minutes from 7:15pm on Tuesdays and 8pm on Thursdays. This coming weekend, ND vs. Georgia, we’ll have a concession stand at the S. Quad Flagpole. Concert for the Missions is coming up on Navy weekend, Fri. Nov. 17th, 8:00 PM, in the Basilica (which will be live-streamed as well). We’re planning a Texas Tour, nearly two weeks, after graduation, so look for more details soon about those travels. Know that we appreciate your prayers and always your visits with us to campus (don’t be a stranger!), as we journey into this exciting new era. 


  • The Folk Choir will be touring Texas May 21st through June 3rd! If you know of any parishes or schools in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, or Waco who are interested in hosting the choir, email J.J. Wright at
  • Feel free to forward this newsletter to someone who might be interested and encourage them to sign up below.

Upcoming Events:

  • 9/8 - Georgia Game Concession stand at the South Quad Flag Pole

  • 10/20 - Jenkins Hall Dedication Mass

  • 11/17 - Concert For the Missions, Benefitting Yancana Huasy at 8:00pm in the Basilica of The Sacred Heart (This concert will also be live streamed!)

Jj In Loft

The above photo pictures the choir at our second Mass of the year in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, enjoying our time back in the loft as we sing "Seek Ye First the Kingdom."

Photo by Annie Mattingly

A Word From the Officers
Liam Maher, Greg Demet, and Maria Vigil
On Wednesday, August 16th at 6:00pm, we had our first official event for the Folk Choir for the 2017-18 academic year, the welcome dinner. In true Folk Choir fashion, dinner did not begin until around 6:10, but the room was soon overflowing with the boisterous sounds of friends reconnecting after summers spent apart. Food and friendship filled the room with a joyful spirit. After the hugs, stories, laughs, and reunions, we moved to CoMo 329 for our first rehearsal of the year.

We were inspired to see the community spirit of the Folk Choir flourishing through both our shared meal and in singing the pieces that are near and dear to our hearts. Of course, the usual beginning of the year excitement has been amplified by the arrival of the choir’s new director, J.J. Wright. Born with the heart of a Folkhead, his keen musical instinct and joyful zeal for the ministry have given the choir a new energy.

Our excitement is fueled by trust that the Spirit dwells within and among us as we gather together. For more than 36 years, hundreds have been a part of the Folk Choir; but One has never left—One who is with us now and always.
As we begin a new chapter in the Folk Choir, we look to the future full of hope.

Liam Maher, President

Maria Vigil, Secretary

Greg Demet, Social Commissioner 

Featured Folkhead

Michael Drake

Name: Michael Drake
Year: Junior
Major(s): Chemical Engineering
Hometown: Charleston, IL

What is your favorite Folk Choir memory? On my first tour with the Folk Choir, we passed through my home parish, St. Charles Borromeo, in Charleston, IL. It was great to sing for my friends and family and to perform a piece by my old choir director, but the most amazing thing was when the choir sang Happy Birthday to my grandma, in person, on her birthday. To this day, she still says that was the best gift she's ever gotten.

What is your favorite snack? I'm a huge fan of bread, especially baguettes. I've been known to eat entire loaves by myself.

If you could be any animal, which would you be, and why? If I had to choose, I'd have to go with being a maned wolf. I promise they're real, and they aren't just weird wolves. As to why, I deliberated on this years ago, and I forgot my reasoning.

That's My Favorite Folk Choir Song!
Bí 'Iosa Im Chroísa - by Colleen Halpin

Jesus, be in our hearts and in our minds in every hour.” As I sat sleepily hunched over in my Tuesday morning class last semester, these were the words I scrawled across the first line of my notebook. In an attempt to refocus my mind at the start of the day, this tiny prayer, drawn from my favorite Folk Choir song, was a two-way invitation: an invitation toJesus to be present in my heart and mind, and an invitation from Jesus to trust in the faithfulness of His presence, whether or not I had the wherewithal to notice Him!

Jesus, be in our hearts and in our minds in every hour.
Jesus, be in our hearts; make our penitence true.
Jesus, be in our hearts; may our love constant be.
O Jesus, dwell within us ‘til the end of our days.

The first time I heard Carolyn Pirtle’s arrangement of “Bi ‘Iosa Im Chroisa,” I was overwhelmed by its hauntingly beautiful melody. As my “Folk Choir newbie” status waned and I became more familiar with the Irish music we sing, I began to realize that the elegant melodic simplicity I noticed in “Bi ‘Iosa” is a hallmark of Irish folk music. In reflecting on “Bi ‘Iosa” in particular, I noticed that it was the simplicity of both the melody and the text that enabled its richness, strength, and abiding beauty to emerge. The stepwise motion of the melody and the repeated invocation of the name of Jesus allow both choir and congregation to relax, settle into the harmonies, and open themselves to an experience of prayer.
O Jesus, dwell within us ‘til the end of our days.” In reflecting on this line, I am struck by the all-encompassing nature of its simple, yet far from simplistic, message. This is the liberating simplicity of our faith! In every situation I encounter, the presence of Christ in my life, today, in this moment is what sustains, grounds, and enlivens me. It is the fundamental truth of Christ’s living presence in our lives that opens us to experience the richness of our relationships, responsibilities and daily routines. It enables our dreaming and hoping, our joy and our peace.

The repetition of a simple prayer, whether sung in four-part harmony or scribbled across notebook paper, invites us to ponder the richness of a life lived in faith. Similarly, understanding the truth of Jesus’ abiding presence throws open the windows of our often-darkened hearts and gently invites us to open our eyes and bask in His light. As we begin this new school year, may we grow in a deeper understanding of Christ’s presence, and allow this understanding to enliven our hearts and nourish our minds.