Notre Dame’s first extracurricular activity—and one of its most beloved—was its choir. Established almost immediately after the College opened, the women’s ensemble held its first rehearsal on Oct. 20, 1923 under the direction of Sr. Mary Marjory Herman, SND. The group was exceptionally talented and its performances played a major role in building NDC’s sterling reputation for musical excellence. The choir performed various types of music ranging from religious classics to popular songs of the period. It was very active from the 1920s through the 1970s and extremely popular with students as well as the Greater Cleveland community who listened to the choir in live performance or on the radio.
By 1935, with the installation of Dr. Louis Balough as its director, the choir’s performances were even more expansive and of the highest caliber. For instance, one music critic cited the group’s elegance, warmth, and precision after a concert at Severance Hall. It was not unusual for the choir to debut compositions by various composers. The group often joined well-known opera performers as well as various local and national male choruses for their concerts.
Dr. Balough, whose tenure as director lasted 25 years, was succeeded by several interim directors until 1963, when Sr. Madeline Columbro (Sr. Mary Electa), SND assumed the position. Under Sister’s capable leadership the choir maintained its reputation for high quality performances and continued the tradition of joint concerts with male choruses. Among the male groups who appeared with the all-women’s choir were glee clubs from Notre Dame University, Villanova University, John Carroll University, Holy Cross College, and Case Institute of Western Reserve University. In addition to several major concerts a year, the NDC choir also participated in other musical activities on campus.
During the 80s and 90s, the number and variety of campus extracurricular activities soared, and the choir’s dominance was naturally reduced. With the transition to coeducation in the fall of 2001, the choir was again revitalized and offered as a curricular elective. In addition to NDC students, the choir has included both faculty and alumnae. Sr. Mary Karita Ivancic, SND has served as the director of the ensemble since its resurgence. The choir has annually performed a Christmas program and a spring concert, appeared at special functions on campus, and sung at various liturgical celebrations. A guest appearance at Legacy Village during the Christmas season as well as participation in a Sweet Adelines scholarship program were added to the choir’s activities during the past fall term. The choir has given rise to soloists, small ensembles, and even a show choir.
In recent years the NDC Choir has participated in the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Severance Hall and sung annually at Legacy Village during the Christmas season. In addition to the large-group ensemble, choral students have an opportunity to sing in smaller ensembles as well as in musical theater productions.
A Word About the Director
Sr. Mary Karita Ivancic, SND has directed the Notre Dame College Vocal Ensemble since its revitalization in the fall of 2001. An alumna of Notre Dame College (’71), Sister received her B.A. in music, German, and theology. She completed her MME with a concentration in vocal/ choral pedagogy from Indiana University (Bloomington) in 1981 and her DMin degree with a concentration in theology and the arts from St. Mary Graduate School of Theology in 2004. Sr. Mary Karita was active as a high school teacher of vocal music, religion, and German for 27 years before coming to Notre Dame College. In addition to teaching music and theology part time at NDC, Sister coordinates liturgy and pastoral music at the Provincial Center of the sisters of Notre Dame in Chardon, Ohio.