Choir’s spring concert returns to its roots in Middleton Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Dick Jones, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 -- 12:00 AM
Madison Diocesan Choir members Diane and Tom Kramer purchased a piece of music, “Give me Jesus,” in memory of family members who have died. It will be featured at the choir’s spring concert on April 27 at St. Bernard Church in Middleton. (Contributed photo)

MIDDLETON -- The Madison Diocesan Choir, under the direction of Dr. Patrick Gorman, returns to its roots at St. Bernard Parish in Middleton on Friday, April 27, with a free spring concert renewing a music ministry that has served the faithful throughout the diocese and beyond for nearly 40 years.

Not only the setting, but also the program will differ considerably from the 2011 spring concert, “Choral Masterworks of the Church,” which included guest soloists, full orchestra, and the music of Schubert and Mozart in the chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center in Madison.

Entitled “Give me Jesus,” the concert this spring features the choir alone in performing simple, yet beautiful, prayerful pieces, including one with the same title, either a cappella or accompanied by Assistant Director and Organist Glenn Schuster.

The free concert will begin at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 27, in the church, 2015 Parmenter St. in Middleton, with a reception to

follow. While the concert is free, the choir appreciates free will offerings in support of its music ministry.

Relationship with parish

“The choir’s always had a close relationship with St. Bernard’s in Middleton,” Gorman said.

In 1972, Dr. Roger J. Folstrom, then choir director at St. Bernard Parish, formed a choir representing Madison parishes for a trip to France the following year.

When Bishop William P. O’Connor died in 1973, the choir sang at his funeral Mass, and that led to the formation of the diocesan choir.

Today, the Madison Diocesan Choir has more than 70 members representing parishes throughout the diocese. Gorman has been director for 20 years, and during that time, the choir has sung at Masses and concerts throughout the Midwest, Canada, and Europe. In a 2001 trip to Italy, the choir sang for Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

One year after starting the choir, Folstrom joined the University of Maryland faculty as chairman of the music education department. Last fall, he died at the age of 77. The choir’s Festival of Lessons and Carols performances in December and January were dedicated in his honor.

With the spring concert, the choir also will pay tribute to Folstrom. The choir has sung at St. Bernard Saturday Masses from time to time, and Gorman said that he, Schuster, and the choir were grateful to Msgr. Douglas Dushack, pastor, and Music Director Joy Bauman for the opportunity to return for a concert performance.

“The St. Bernard sanctuary provides an ideal venue for our concert,” he said. “We can stand on the steps and sing. There’s plenty of room. The acoustics are good. It gives us a chance to sing some nice music that we have with organ.”

A choir favorite with a story

A choir favorite this year is “Give me Jesus.” How the choir acquired it is a story in itself. It also represents an opportunity to support choir’s music ministry and preserve the memory of loved ones.

Longtime choir members Tom and Diane Kramer of St. Bernard Parish purchased the selection in memory of family members.

“My grandmother, Leona Kramer, died in 2009 at the age of 105, and although she so dearly loved music, there was none at her memorial,” Tom Kramer said.

“That was in September of 2009. Two months later, my father, Richard, died, and my niece, Jennifer Yancey, the choral director at Oregon High School, sang ‘Give me Jesus.’ It was very moving. It meant a lot to have Jennifer sing for grandpa.”

Kramer said his niece also sang “Give me Jesus” at funerals for other family members, including his mother, Alice, who died last August. At that time, he and Diane decided they wanted to purchase an arrangement for the choir.

“This song brings up a lot of memories,” Kramer said. “It reminds us of family. We mentioned it to Pat (Gorman), that we wanted to purchase the music for the choir in memory of our families, and he offered to find an arrangement.”

After reviewing numerous settings, Gorman recommended one by Ronald Kauffman, and the Kramers agreed.

Capturing hearts

“It really has captured the hearts of choir members this year,” Gorman said. “Everybody seems to enjoy singing it. It seems to mean a lot to them, and it has a connection with the listeners, too.”

Gorman said it has had an affect on him as well, as is evident from the concert program title.

“It’s a beautiful spiritual, it’s a beautiful sentiment,” Gorman said. “It’s a spiritual that I think sounds familiar to a lot of people, but I rarely hear it performed. And certainly the diocesan choir’s never performed it prior to this year. So it’s been kind of a nice little gem that we found.”

Gorman said it reflects other selections in the program. “We’ve also got some other pieces, like ‘Be Though My Vision,’ and ‘The King of Love,’ that are very much this kind of devotional text of real, heartfelt prayers on a very personal level.”

Gorman said the program includes another choir favorite, “O lux beatissima,”as well as two pieces by early 20th Century British composers, “O clap your hands,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and “Magnificat,” by C.V. Stanford.

“It’s nice to have that Magnificat text in English that we can learn and pray with,” he said.

Donations to the choir

Gorman said that like the Kramers, other members or parishioners in general have made donations to the choir for the purchase of music in remembrance of a loved one.

The cost of music for the more than 70 choir members can run $175 to $200. Anyone interested in such a memorial should first consult with Gorman, who as director ultimately determines what is most fitting and appropriate for the diocesan choir to sing.

Said Gorman, “In some cases, they’ve just said, Could you buy something that would reflect this person’s life? Sometimes they’ve even decided that to give money for a piece that we already have. Then usually, we would put the dedication on the piece of music.”

In consultation with Gorman, Schuster, for example, has contributed four pieces in memory of his parents.

“My dad, Emil, died on December 14, 1997, from a massive heart attack,” Schuster said. “It was a total shock to all of us. Having passed away just before Christmas, I thought Christmas music would be fitting, as my parents came to almost all of my concerts.”

In memory of his father, Schuster purchased “Jesse’s Carol” by Donald Fraser and “Angel Carol” by John Rutter.

“My mother, Doris, died of cancer in 2001,” Schuster said. She loved music and took great pride in his success as a musician. In her honor, he purchased “Alleluia” by Ralph Manual and “Lord of the Dance,” an arrangement by John Furguson.

“My mother loved life and was always on the go, helping others,” he said. “I thought it was a perfect tribute in her honor.”

At 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 27, in the sanctuary of St. Bernard, the Madison Diocesan Choir will give voice to music in renewal of its ministry and remembrance of souls departed.

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