Music program left in capable hands
Emily Pike, Brendan Hanehan, Peter Mitchell | Monday, March 22, 2010
In the past weeks, we have read many letters in the Viewpoint section about Gail Walton and her legacy. Through reading those testimonies, we are reminded that none who knew her can ever forget the impact she had on their lives. As Holy Week approaches, it is difficult to imagine those sacred days without Gail Walton. But like any good teacher, Gail didn’t do it all on her own; she surrounded herself with talented men and women who shared in her mission of performing sacred music worthy of our faith and our community. Of these, none was more trusted by Gail than Dr. Andrew McShane, the Basilica’s Assistant Director of Music. For nearly 20 years, Gail and Andy worked side-by-side at Campus Ministry, and to know Gail was to understand her trust in and reliance on Andy and his professional abilities.
Certainly her trust alone would be reason enough for us to have full faith in her friend and colleague, but those of us who have had the privilege to sing in the Liturgical Choir, the Women’s Liturgical Choir or the Basilica Schola have more reason than Gail’s trust alone: We’ve seen him at work. Through innumerable weddings, daily masses and weekend liturgies, we’ve witnessed his dedication to sacred music. Andrew McShane has worked tirelessly alongside Gail and Notre Dame’s other talented choral directors at our University’s occasions for celebration: Junior Parents’ Weekends, Baccalaureate Masses, Alumni Weekends, openings of school years and countless others. He also has helped lead us in musical prayer during times of loss and mourning, including Pope John Paul II’s death, the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the funerals of Father Joyce and other beloved members of the Notre Dame family.
Andy is an example of strength to us. In Gail’s sickness, he shouldered the bulk of her responsibilities while caring for the emotional well-being of his choir — a feat that demonstrated his exceptional leadership. While supporting his best friend through a life-threatening illness, he managed to maintain the same standard of musical excellence that he learned from Gail. Indeed, it was Andy who directed the music for Gail’s own funeral, an occasion none present will ever forget. Even if we had only that one sad instance as an example, we would know that though we mourn the loss of Gail, we needn’t mourn music at the Basilica. It will never be the same without her, but knowing that Gail’s work will pass into the hands of her dear friend and colleague, we feel confident that Andy’s unique direction and leadership will continue Gail’s work of raising our hearts and minds to God. And knowing him ourselves, we confidently and eagerly look forward to the continued development of the music at the Basilica of the Sacred heart in the care of a great musician, dedicated professional, gifted teacher, charismatic leader and excellent friend, Dr. Andrew McShane.
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