Members of the adult choir at Our Lady of the Lake teamed up with children, parishioners and cluster members to reach 150 voices commemorating the church’s 150 years. (Submitted photo)
The adult choir at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Ashland recently joined forces with other voices for a 150th Jubilee Concert Celebration on May 7. Choir members from Chequamegon Bay Area Catholic parishes came together with the adult choir as well as the Our Lady of the Lake Folk Group, and children from the local Catholic school and religious education students.
The concert marks one of various events commemorating the 150 years since Ashland’s former St. Agnes Catholic parish was established. The jubilee year began on Sept. 10, 2022, and will culminate with a Jubilee Mass concelebrated by Bishop James P. Powers and several former priests and friars on Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.
“Fr. Jerome (D’Souza) approached me last August about his vision to have a jubilee concert in the jubilee year,” stated Shelly Brevak, director of the adult combined choir and one of the organizers of the concert. “His vision was to have 150 singers fill the church with beautiful music. At the time, 150 singers seemed like a tall order for a church the size of Our Lady of the Lake.”
Brevak said that she knew 50 was doable, but was unsure how to find the other 100. After some brainstorming, the committee formulated a plan to bring the vision to fruition.
“I reached out to our Catholic cluster parish choir members at Dauby, Ino and Moquah, who are always eager to join us on special occasions, and we have a school and religious education program filled with children’s voices,” Brevak shared, “but all included, I still came up short of 150 voices. Our wheels kept turning, and then we had an epiphany.”
With the congregation’s participation in weekend Masses, the organizers knew that if they added a few traditional hymns to the concert program, they could invite the audience to participate and would certainly reach the 150 voices needed to fulfill Fr. Jerome’s vision.
A choir member and Our Lady of the Lake trustee, Robert Eaton, opened the concert with a warm welcome with the phrase, “This is the day the Lord has made.” He asked the audience to close their eyes and reflect where they would have been 150 years ago when the church space was nothing but dirt.
He then asked everyone to open their eyes and look around at the beautiful pillars, the arches and each other, acknowledging, “Our church was built on love.”
After setting that tone, the choir began with a Don Besig arrangement, “Praise God.” The audience was engaged in the concert as music spanning the last 150 years was performed, including Caesar Franck’s “Panis Angelicus” written in Latin in 1872.
Shelly Brevak, director, noted “‘Panis Angelicus’ was written just one year prior to Our Lady of the Lake being built.”
In honor of the Franciscans, the children and adult choir sang the familiar “Prayer of St. Francis.” The folk group included their signature song, “Let Me Be Your Instrument,” written by Fr. John Eaton, OFM, a son of the parish.
The men entertained the audience with their rendition of “I Love This Family of God.” The women followed with an interpretation of “Hail, Holy Queen” from “Sister Act” that brought many smiles.
Another highlight was a song written for the 150th anniversary for the city of Austin, Minnesota, titled “How Good It Is,” which, along with the piano, was accompanied by an ensemble of violin, cello, French horn and flute. The 75-minute concert also included another Latin favorite, “Ave Verum,” an arrangement of “How Great Thou Art/Majesty,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
Following Fr. Jerome’s final blessing, the choir closed with “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” to commemorate a song used by Ashland’s former DePadua High School Choir.
In his final blessing, Fr. Jerome, parochial administrator Catholic Communities of the Ashland Cluster, opened with “I Love This Family of God,” referencing a song that the choir sang with soloist Frank Ludwig, the oldest member of the choir.
He acknowledged directors Christine Hulmer, Karen Eaton, Erin McCutchen and Shelly Brevak and thanked them for making his dream come true. He dedicated the concert to the Franciscan Friars for their 146 years of dedication to Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.
In closing, he invited everyone to attend the jubilee Mass on Sept. 10. Catholic Herald readers may view the concert at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxKqC2cbSgw.