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Senior Farewells

At each spring concert, senior chorale members are invited to offer a farewell speech. With permission, several recent speeches are posted below.

2010 (Catherine Beinke) | 2009 (Catherine Strazdins) | 2008 (Gregory Macksoud)

April 2010: Catherine Beinke '10

When I found Bobby's sticky note so cleverly placed inside a piece of music, saying "TOP SECRET: start thinking about ideas for your senior farewell speech" the wheels in my mind immediately started spinning. I thought about what previous seniors had discussed in their speeches, and once Bobby told me I had free reign to talk about whatever I wanted, I began to think about what I really wanted to say, not what people would necessarily expect me to say. That's when I set a goal, something I wanted to accomplish through the speech. More than anything else, I wanted all of you to leave with something, something that would be useful and meaningful to everyone. Tonight, I hope you leave feeling impacted by the power of this music, and that you feel a sense of unity among all of us as together we share in this common experience.

I want to try something with all of you. So just bear with me J You might feel a little silly at first, but just trust me! Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a place of your choice where comfort, peacefulness, and joy surround you like a gentle cool breeze on a warm summer day. Feel the breeze pass by you and through you. Experience the feeling of the breeze blowing your hair back and the sound of the wind as it rustles through the trees as if it's almost whispering. Take a nice, deep breath and enjoy the moment of stillness that you feel as everything stops around you- all the fear, the worry, the demands, everything is frozen in time. You are in the moment and nothing can distract you. Feel a smile building- just let it happen and then slowly open your eyes.

What you hopefully just experienced is what I experience and what I'm sure other choir members also experience when we sing the songs that Fr. Bede and Bobby choose for Mass and Concerts. Of course this feeling doesn't come forth automatically. It arises once a song is learned and we begin to fully understand and appreciate the lyrics, and then feel the emotions waiting to burst forth from each song. This is when I believe we are filled with God's presence- in this incredible stillness and joy.

If you do a google search for inspirational quotes about music, you will find pages upon pages of results. Here is one that I found that I feel really captures the power behind music, especially the music we sing here in the choir. "Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul." Music is a gift from God with incredible healing powers for those singing the music as well as those listening to the music.

A wise monk once told me- "God gives each of us gifts. Learn to accept the gifts and use them." Thank you Fr. Bede! Tonight we share with you the gift of music, which we have been blessed enough to have been given. Listen to the beauty and the praise in the lyrics, let the melodies and harmonies soothe your soul. Let the power overwhelm and overtake you, and you will be changed for the better. Then I ask this of you- let the beauty of the music transfer over into your lives. Live more peaceably, with more joy, more hope, more steadfast faith, more trust in our Lord and each other, and of course, with more love.

So as you all leave tonight, I'm going to give each and everyone of you a challenge. Find something, anything, in any or all of the songs - that you can carry out in your life. It could be having more patience, loving more, or something as simple as listening to music more- whatever you'd like. In doing this, I can guarantee that you will enrich the lives of others, as well as your own life. I have been given so much, and my life has been enhanced in so many ways because of the power I find in the music we sing. It is my hope tonight, as I say farewell to a wonderful four years here, that you too can experience even a glimpse of what we all have experienced and can love choir as much as we do.

Choir is more than simply learning pieces and singing them. Choir is a breadth of friendship, support, fun, and love. I started choir not knowing a soul, and now some of my best friends are choir members. Some of my favorite memories from Saint A's have been memories with the choir. I've been fortunate enough to participate in both Eurochoir trips. For those of you who don't know, the choir takes a trip to Europe every two years and performs in various churches and cathedrals over spring break. When I was a sophomore we went to Hungary, Austria, and Switzerland where I was able to enter and sing in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful churches I have ever seen. This past year we went to Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. I will never forget the enormous joy I felt in these churches- I highly suggest visiting some of them! See Bobby afterwards if you'd like a list. Also, If you'd like to donate to the next trip, see Father Bede, and he will be overwhelmingly excited!! J Sorry, I just had to throw that shameless plug in there.

I will never forget the friendships that I've made and enhanced on these trips and in attending choir rehearsal Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday nights. I actually feel a void if I am unable to attend a choir practice, or if we do not have practice. At choir I get to see my friends, and together we get to share our passion for singing. Choir is also my stress reliever- I can walk into rehearsal in and awful mood and leave feeling rejuvenated and cleansed. Choir is the one place where we can forget all our worries and our burdens and just do something that we love.

I will also never forget all the laughs that Bobby and the rest of us have had watching and listening to Father Bede. One of his funniest moments was when we were practicing for this concert and Father Bede was bouncing around throwing up his hands and the front panel of his habit just to get us to laugh and to bring up the energy of the song. I will also always remember his uncanny ability to calm us all down through his meditations- one of the favorite parts of choir. His ability to bring all our pieces to life will never cease to amaze me, and his words of wisdom will stay with me forever. I will always be thankful for his unyielding dedication to the choir, and for his constant encouragement. I will miss Brother Andrew and Don Cox always being there to accompany us- always impressing us with their amazing ability to bring the music to life. I will miss joking with Bobby, listening to him poke fun at Father Bede, and singing next to him. I'm so glad that even though he graduated a long time ago, that he's still here! Without him, who would plan all of our trips to Europe, or more importantly keep Father Bede in line?? I'd like to express my endless thanks to Father Bede, Bobby, Don Cox, and Brother Andrew for all that they do for us. We wouldn't be the same choir without each and everyone one of them. (clap for them)

Thank you also to everyone in the choir. You are all beautiful people and I'm privileged to have you all in my life. I will miss you all dearly and I wish nothing but the best for you. Continue to sing beautifully- I know you will. I cannot wait to come back and experience your incredible talent. I consider you to be my family, a place where I truly belong, and I cannot thank you enough for that.

To all of you here tonight, thank you for supporting our music, and I hope that you have enjoyed the music thus far, and will continue to enjoy the rest of the music.

Finally, I'd like to extend a special thanks to the seniors- I've loved growing with you over the four years. I've also loved being able to experience two Europe trips with some of you. Thank you so much for all of your support, encouragement, acceptance, and love- I would not be the same person with out you all. I will remember all the laughs, the good times, everything, as I hope you do. Tonight is a bittersweet night for us, but as we leave, let's not dwell on the goodbye, but instead remember all the wonderful memories we've made, all the amazing friends we've made, how our lives have been touched, and all the lives that we have touched. I wish you all the best of luck for the future. I hope you all keep singing and never lose your love for music.

And now, if you'll let me, I'd like to end with a prayer. Lord, thank you for bringing us together this night to sing your praises and to share your word. Thank you for giving us the gift of music, and for allowing us to share you with others through our music. May you keep us all in your steadfast love and watch over us as we depart tonight, and in all the days to come. And Lord, I'd like to thank you for Father Bede, Bobby, Don Cox, Brother Andrew, all the choir members, my family and friends, and everyone here tonight. Thank you for gracing my life with so many wonderful people. Spread your everlasting love to all here tonight and let us leave filled with your presence. In your holy name we pray, AMEN.

Thank you , and safe travels for all!

April 2009: Catherine Strazdins '09

Good evening, my name is Catherine; I'm a senior and I have experienced seven years of this choir.

Now, as hard as St. A's may be, I'm not on the seven year plan (yet). (Nor am I an '01 grad who just can't seem to leave.) As a freshman, I learned from the three years of choir members older than me. As a senior, I'm trying to teach the three years below me. And I've made the journey here with my fellow seniors. In that sense, I have experienced seven years of this choir.

During our time in choir, I think every choir member, past and present, can attest to something that never surprises us: Fr. Bede's emails.

These e-mails usually contain the same categorically understood message: be on time. On occasion, in those emails, Fr. Bede will include a quote, and, I hate to say it, it can often go overlooked. However, a few months ago, Fr. Bede included one that struck me and I hope that it will strike you all in the same way. The quote was from Howard Thurman, who said, "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

This choir makes me come alive. In many ways, it makes us all come alive.

I never thought that I would ever get so much out of being a part of choir and I'm sure that Fr. Bede and Bobby thought I wouldn't get much out of it either! For almost three years, choir was something I went to, but it was never anything more than that at times. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed going to choir, but mostly because it was another chance to goof around with my friends. I never stopped talking and I, along with my "cohort of distractors," as Fr. Bede so lovingly put it, constantly disrupted practice for no real purpose. Yes, I drove Fr. Bede and Bobby absolutely crazy.

For me, I had been in choir so long that it was hard to see the difference it was having upon my life. I needed some perspective. The spring of my junior year, I studied abroad in England. As the weeks flew by, I realized that I missed my friends in choir; I missed our random outbursts of the college anthem walking past the monastery-at 11pm. I missed our quick "chat sessions" right before choir when were supposed to be getting our folders. I missed hassling the tenors.

I soon realized that what I missed weren't all the stories, the jokes and the time with the choir outside the church walls-I missed choir itself-the experience as a whole. While in London, I caught myself singing harmonies to familiar pieces during mass. I realized that I actually knew how to sing a Gregorian chant-something that I never realized I was capable of. I realized I missed taking an hour out of my day to separate myself from my academics. It was when I was able to surprise the choir-by meeting up with them during their European concert tour in Hungary-that I began to comprehend the breadth and depth of the choir's impact upon my life.

This is just my story, however. Each one of us has a different and equally as rich of a story behind why we joined choir. Many sung in choir in high school and wished to continue it in college. Others sang in their home parish where music ministry was already part of their lives. And others had not sung since sixth grade and were guilt tripped into auditioning by two friends. But the reason why we joined choir is not the point. The real question is why we've stayed.

Choir is not easy, that is also another categorically understood message. Aside from the time commitment, choir challenges your ability to listen, your patience, your dedication, and your ability to get in the coffee shop line at a decent time. But we're all still here. Each one of us has a unique choir experience but our similarities have kept us together through the years.

Some people have said that when you graduate, you will no longer be a part of this choir. I really believe that's not true. You will always have a home here; you will always have the seven years of choir members you know to turn to. From day one, I was immediately embraced into a community of people united in Christ through a common passion. Choir made Saint A's my home that day, and this choir became a very real family for me. Concerts are like a family reunion-you may not know everyone, but everyone has something in common.

At Saint Anselm College, we are all affected by the Benedictine tradition. I will never forget a recent session of Theology on Tap, when four of our monks were asked what they enjoy most about being a monk. Without hesitation, they all responded quite simply, ‘balance.'


Choir is balance. We have learned that choir is prayer and work through song. It is laughter (at Fr. Bede's crazy faces) and silence (in his meditations). It is fear (of a new song) and faith (in knowing you have 65 others to back you up). And in the same sense, though we finish tonight with A Song of Parting, and we may find it difficult to actually part from the choir, we go out with joy. Indeed, the song You Shall Go Out With Joy encapsulates everything we've been working towards. It begins quietly, in meditation and in simplicity, and ends quite triumphantly-much like our four years in choir.

Many of our choir alumni are here tonight. Many others are not. But present or not, current choir members or alumni, I will always remember you as my family at Saint Anselm, and I can't think of a higher compliment I can give.

You're right. These years did go by too fast. But I hope that you've enjoyed every minute of them. No words can express the gratitude we all share for family and friends who've supported us through the years, and especially, Don Cox, Br. Andrew, Bobby, and Fr. Bede. You've all had a great impact on all of our lives here at Saint Anselm. Thank you. So, as we conclude this, and for some of us, our last concert, I, as Fr. Bede always does in his emails, will leave you with a quote: "Restore your soul, in mercy and in truth. You shall go out with joy."

Thank you all and God bless.

March 2008: Gregory Macksoud '08

Good Evening, my name is Greg Macksoud. In the next several minutes I will attempt to give you a glimpse of Choir. Like so many have done before me and countless more will carry on, I stand here tonight, a testament to the wonders of this experience. In the past, senior farewells have been directed at the audience, while the Choir remained in their stalls. I am honored with the distinction tonight of being able to face my fellow members. And although they're not behind me right now, I feel grateful that they've been there these past four years. Tonight I'll tell you what Choir has meant for me during that time.

When thinking about what encompasses Choir, many things come to mind. Farm parties (an orientation of sorts for new members), visiting Europe and Father Bede's "short and rarely sent" emails are just a few of those things. But those wondrous events aside...Choir...for the most part revolves around time spent inside these church walls.

It is a unique experience in which each individual benefits in his or her own way, all the while participating in the collective gain of the Choir, hence, making my speech simply a glimpse. Belonging to THIS group provides a foundation, a structure upon which one could and usually does find a certain comfort right from the beginning.

I joined Choir apprehensively. As a musically interested freshman who couldn't read a lick of music...Choir...and Father Bede appeared rather daunting. Despite these initial fears and after some more thought and a friend's encouragement, I found myself here, practicing in the stalls behind me. And while my ability to read music has remained rather stagnant, my involvement in Choir, among other groups on campus, has proved to be the most rewarding.

When applying to college, I was wrestling with a lot of questions, the most important of which revolved around my faith.

I remember writing on my St. A's application that I wanted to go here in order to strengthen that faith, and be provided with a nurturing environment enabling that faith to grow. Above all else...choir has done this for me.

My personal journey in choir embodies my growing appreciation and realization of my faith, particularly through prayer. Prayer was never something I was drawn towards or did often until joining Choir. Singing these past four years every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday night has strengthened my prayer life. I have learned that the songs we sing are prayers. That when I find myself not knowing what or how to pray, I can return to repeating lyrics learned in Choir.

I especially like the times before concerts when Father Bede has us seated with our eyes closed. He runs through the list of the songs we'll be singing that night and invites us to call to mind a person to whom that song will be dedicated.

Offering up a song is one of the many things that the Choir encounters as a group, but experiences individually. I'm sure many of you sitting out there tonight had songs offered up for you before the program began. The sense of prayer and belief I've found in choir has yielded a sturdy base upon which I can grow and always come back to in later life. I think anyone who enjoys music can understand this sense of awareness and comfort that prayer through song can bring. This might also explain the large number of people who continually wish to participate in Choir.

Though Choir is a personal experience, it is also about the collective and most notably the sound of that collective. The hard work and commitment that each Choir member puts in is present in every song that you hear. It is extremely gratifying after many hours of practice to feel chills at the completion of a chord or to have a smile forced out of you when singing a favorite song. The sound of the Choir is a wonderful stress reliever and incredibly uplifting.

I say this with authority, after hearing time and time again from people who have heard this sound tell of its HEALING CAPABILITIES, its MEDITATIVE SPIRIT and its PRAYERFUL STRUCTURE. I invite all of you to call these things into mind as we complete our concert tonight. As you listen to the last two songs, entitled "Thou Hidden Love of God" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" call to mind someone in prayer.

Before I conclude, here is some advice to my fellow choir members. As Father Bede has said many times: "God is an artist and artists love other artists." My advice is this: KEEP SINGING; use this gift and all the others that God has given you in wherever life takes you. There is no greater praise we can give God than to use our talents for his praise and glory. I also believe there are few better pleasures than coming to the realization that you've done just that. I experienced this first hand on a Spring Break Alternative trip last year.

While volunteering in Mississippi, my SBA group attended a mass for which there was no music...ever. Several of the Choir members were on this trip with me and we offered to sing an opening and closing hymn. We sang, "I Love You Lord" and "Amazing Grace," two of my favorite pieces. To see the pleasure and gratitude on so many faces brought upon by the simple use of a gift we'd be given was inexplicable.

I have enormous gratitude to all of you who have made my time in choir so enriching and unforgettable. Don Cox, Br. Andrew, Bobby, Father Bede...know tonight how grateful one can be to the experience you provide. To the students in choir whom I'm privileged to call my friends, especially the 24 other seniors that also complete their journey will live in my heart for a long time. Without your sacrifice, without your hard work and devotion to the music and without your voices harmonizing praise to the God we believe in, this college experience would have never been so fulfilling. Thank you all...

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