June 20, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Sister Beverly Bobola, OP, who ministers in the Archives Office at the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse, took on a rare and special role over Memorial Day Weekend. She and 30 other members of the Lenawee (Michigan) Community Chorus participated with six other choruses in the May 27, 2018, National Memorial Day Choral Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“It was thrilling – it was really thrilling,” said Sister Beverly, who has been in the Lenawee Community Chorus for four years. “I never thought I’d be singing in the Kennedy Center.” She recalled the excitement of being part of a national celebration of Memorial Day, on what is one of the biggest days of the year in Washington, D.C.
The Lenawee Community Chorus, directed by David Ripper, was invited to participate in the event by Music Celebrations International, producer of the Choral Festival. Also participating were the Community United Methodist Church of Fruitland Park, Florida; Elizabethton High School Advanced Ensembles of Elizabethton, Tennessee; Naperville (Illinois) Chorus; Richmond Noteworthy Chamber Choir of Richmond, Missouri; Towne Singers of La Cañada, California; and West Valley Chorale, of Phoenix, Arizona. In total, more than 200 singers participated, accompanied by the United States Air Force Orchestra.
Sunday afternoon, May 27, the group sang during the 2018 National Memorial Day Choral Festival, a program of patriotic music. One of the most moving for Sister Beverly was “Who Are the Brave?” “You could barely get through it without crying,” she said. “It isn’t just the brave who are on the fields. It’s the brave who are taking care of the families at home or sitting at the hospital.”
Singing in a large group “was just so stimulating because we had all those voices around us,” Sister Beverly said. “It made the music seem more powerful to be around all the other singers. It was so emotional.”
One of the highlights for Sister Beverly was being directed by Craig Jessop, former music director for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the founding dean for the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. “He was so passionate, and he wanted us to be just like that.”
On Memorial Day, May 28, the combined chorus led the Annual Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue. The parade was watched by “thousands and thousands” of people … for as far away as you could see,” Sister Beverly recalled. “People were standing shoulder to shoulder.”
Members of the Lenawee Community Chorus and the other choruses took a long journey – literally and figuratively – to reach the highlight of singing at the Kennedy Center. For the group from Lenawee, the journey began at 5:00 a.m. May 25 as they left Adrian for ride to Washington, D.C.
After arriving at 4:30 p.m. and eating dinner at 5:00 p.m., the combined choruses practiced together from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. that day and rehearsed the next day from 9:00 a.m. to noon and again from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. “We had all that rehearsal so we could sing well together,” Sister Beverly explained. “Practicing with them all was really for the technical points.”
In addition to their preparations for the program, the members of the Lenawee Community Chorus took the opportunity to explore the various sites of Washington, D.C; participated in a special wreath-laying ceremony to honor World War II veterans from Michigan; and shared meals together. They were also invited to the National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, but because of the pouring rain, many watched from their hotel rooms, Sister Beverly said.
“Everybody just had a good time,” she said. “We were so grateful we could participate in this patriotic event for our country.”
Feature photo: Sister Beverly Bobola, OP, and David Ripper, Director of the Lenawee Community Chorus, stand with the chorus’ wreath to honor Michigan veterans.