FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

March 02, 2017

www.franciscan.org

Working in harmony

He sings, she plays, and the result is something special

BY TONI CASHNELLI

PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMGabriel Balassone and Susan Quirk’s musical partnership spans 20 years.At the 10 o’clock Mass at St. Anthony Shrine cantor Br. Gabriel Balassone makes an uncharacteristic flub.

Nearby, pianist Susan Quirk covers the gaffe so skillfully that no one is the wiser.

“They have to have a good ear and be ready for anything that happens,” Gabe says later, describing what good accompanists do all the time.

In this case, it’s more like telepathy. He and Susan have worked together so often for so long, they can finish each other’s sentences. According to Susan they are so in sync, “I pretty much know what he’s gonna say before he says it.”

Well-matched pair

It’s a partnership that listeners at province gatherings probably take for granted. Susan, who chooses the music and puts the choir through its paces, amplifies and enhances the Sunday liturgy at St. Anthony and often subs for music directors elsewhere. A piano student since the first grade, she was a double major – organ and piano – at Mount St. Joseph and Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. In 1983, “I was teaching music and religion at Mother of Mercy and playing at Mass at Little Flower. My husband Bob and I were looking for Sunday worship. We started coming to the 10 o’clock Mass” at St. Anthony Shrine. “The woman playing the piano was going to leave,” so Susan offered to step in. She’s been there ever since.

Gabe, a choir member from his days at South Junior High School in Niagara Falls, N.Y., studied music at State University in Fredonia, N.Y., and Wayne State in Detroit. His official music ministry dates back to 1970s Duns Scotus, where he was also a faculty member and the librarian. One summer at Meadow Brook Amphitheatre he sang the part of the King of Egypt in a concert version of Aida, alongside performers from the Metropolitan Opera.

Susan heard Gabe sing in 1997 when he moved to St. Anthony Friary to be librarian, music minister, guest master and porter. She was floored when that booming bass came out of his slender, 5-foot-10 frame. “He’s the best I have ever heard. That’s all I can say.”

PHOTOS BY FRANK JASPER, OFMSusan Quirk plays piano“We’re like-minded,” Susan Quirk says of their collaboration.FILE PHOTOGabriel Balassone in 1972, the year he sang in AidaSinging recently at St. Anthony ShrineSusan amplifies and enhances the Sunday liturgy at the Shrine.1 - 5<>Mutual admiration

As often as he performs liturgical music, it never gets old. “I never experience, ‘Here we go again,’” Gabe says. “I never approach it as boring. It’s hard to describe” the feeling when one sings. “I don’t get goosebumps.”

On behalf of audiences, Susan adds, “But we do.”

Asked when he knew he had vocal ability, Gabe twirls the cord of his habit and changes the subject. “I don’t hear myself like other people do,” he says. “It’s not about how I sound. It’s the fact that it’s a prayerful experience.”

But he is effusive when it comes to Susan. “She’s very patient, easy to like. She’s a fine musician all the way around. In accompanying people, she’s not overpowering; she follows beautifully. When an emergency net has to be thrown, she’s there.”

Between weekly Masses, friar funerals and other province events, they have likely collaborated 1,000 times. Asked to sing at functions, Gabe always asks, “Who’s playing?” He elaborates. “Any singer wants to know. There are accompanists, and there are accompanists.”

Gracious and accommodating, “He is amazing to work with,” Susan says. “His being here has changed my life. We’re like-minded about what we do. I have somebody who understands what we’re about. We both have prayer as an important part of our focus. However we can call people to pray, our medium is music.”

Steady support

A lot of prayers were evoked six years ago when Susan was diagnosed with cancer. In the midst of chemotherapy, “I was playing one Sunday during the Preparation of Gifts [at the Shrine] and my blood sugar crashed.” She fell backwards, taking the piano bench with her. While Guardian Gene Mayer called 911, Gabe took charge, stepping up in the best tradition of, “The Mass must go on.” Throughout her recovery and a later recurrence of cancer – both bouts successfully treated – “He was like a rock for me. He is deeply spiritual, a very holy man, the best musician I know.”

She does, however, have a bone to pick with him. “Things are never written for basses,” Gabe explains. “They’re always written for tenors. I always ask for a lower key.” As a result, Susan must often transpose, moving the notes into Gabe’s vocal ballpark. He jokes, “She loves it when I ask, ‘Can you put this in a lower key?’”

She counters, “I always say I want him to sing at my funeral – in the keys that are written.”

  • PHOTOS FROM https://www.facebook.com/RogerBaconHS/Bacon students said thanks to Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler at the Ash Wednesday Mass. Ash Wednesday wasn’t the only thing they celebrated at this week’s all-school Mass at Roger Bacon in St. Bernard. To thank him for his support and an inspiring homily, students gave the presider, outgoing Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler, a standing ovation. “We really appreciate everything he’s done,” says RB President Tom Burke. “We hope he knows how much we enjoyed his time with us.”
  • In its March SHARINGS from the Office for Consecrated Life, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati says the first Religious Brothers Day, scheduled for May 1, 2017, “came about as a direct result of asking the question: How can we continue to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life? The Year of Consecrated Life focused the attention of the Church and the world on the special place that Religious Women and Men hold in the Church.  The Brothers Think Tank, a group formed through the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), brainstormed ideas about how we could put forward and recognize the Mission and Identity of the Religious Brother in the Church.” A website for RBD (www.yearforconsecratedlife.com) offers resources for celebrating the inaugural event.
  • Beer was ostensibly the main attraction at Tuesday’s launch of St. Anthony Quad Beer, but the star of the night had to be Fr. Frank Jasper, who was interviewed by three local TV stations in connection with the brew produced with wild yeast and microbes gathered last year at St. Anthony Shrine. Cincinnati’s Urban Artifact Brewery hosted the beer’s rollout at a Mardi Gras celebration at its facility, housed in the old St. Patrick Church. They reported, “The Quad spent 10 months in a red wine barrel aging with wild yeast caught on the property and will now be available in bottles and draft!” A portion of proceeds from the event – a dollar for every bottle sold – were donated to Franciscan mission work. Check out WLW-T reporter Megan Mitchell’s interview with Frank at: Blessed-beer/8976210. The Catholic Telegraph posted party photos at: mardi-gras-franciscan-style
  • Stephen Cho and David Crank at St. Mary of the Angels Church.Korean friar Fr. Stephen Cho, who last year helped friars in Cincinnati celebrate the Reds’ Opening Day Parade, joined the friars in New Orleans this week for Ash Wednesday. He’s pictured with Br. David Crank at St. Mary of the Angels Church.
  • Franciscan Media has assembled a collection of inspiring daily reflections for Lent in an online calendar at:  Lent-calendar
  • Pope Francis’ prayer intention for March is Support for Persecuted Christians. According to Vatican Radio: “During the month of March, the pope has expressed his desire for the world to join him in praying for those Christians who are persecuted around the globe and are forced to leave their home and families to find safety.” He hopes that “persecuted Christians may be supported by the prayers and material help of the whole Church.” Watch the video at: Romereports
  • New look, new features, new easy-to-navigate format: Welcome to the Order’s redesigned website, www.ofm.org.  “We have streamlined our menus and have employed the latest technologies so you will have easy access to information,” according to Fr. Alvin Te, Director of Communications. “It is our hope that this is just the beginning of better communications within our Order, as well as from our Order to the world.  We promise to continually keep you updated with the latest information, so check back often and connect with us on social networks.”

 On Ash Wednesday I was looking for something to animate my prayer, and I remembered that we friars now have access to the Center of Concern’s resource page.I visited the site and found a contemporary way of the cross.  The author, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU, chose a contemporary picture of suffering and paired it with a short phrase from the writings of Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff for each station.  I was most touched by the photograph of an Asian child wiping the tears of her mother for the sixth station (Veronica wipes the face of Jesus) and a group of Hispanic women grieving intensely for the eighth station (Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem).I remember one summer morning several years ago how I was trying to pray at the same time that the trash was being picked up in the neighborhood. I had the door open to catch the breeze; I heard the garbage truck getting closer and closer, louder and louder, as it approached the friary.  I used the distraction to get in touch with my “inner garbage”, and when they got to the front of the house and emptied our trash cans,  I let them take my inner trash along with the junk in front of the house.  I tried to implement Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17  to “pray always” when it was creatively adapted to “pray all ways!”Praying a picture or a piece of music or a walk in the woods or even the sound of a garbage truck can be a good way to mix it up a bit, and get the juices flowing again.  This virtual way of the cross took only a few moments, but it was a stimulating moment of prayer, connecting the passion of Jesus with the suffering of people today.If friars would like to access the resource page, go to www.educationforjustice.org and put in the user name and password provided earlier.  If you forgot those, please check with Toni or Dan and make it a favorite on your computer.  You might find some ways to pray creatively this Lent!— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org

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FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

Working in harmony

He sings, she plays, and the result is something special

PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMGabriel Balassone and Susan Quirk’s musical partnership spans 20 years.At the 10 o’clock Mass at St. Anthony Shrine cantor Br. Gabriel Balassone makes an uncharacteristic flub.

FRANCISCAN FRIARS Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

March 02, 2017

Working in harmony

He sings, she plays, and the result is something special

FRANCISCAN FRIARS
Office of Communications Province of St. John the Baptist

 On Ash Wednesday I was looking for something to animate my prayer, and I remembered that we friars now have access to the Center of Concern’s resource page.I visited the site and found a contemporary way of the cross.  The author, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, OSU, chose a contemporary picture of suffering and paired it with a short phrase from the writings of Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff for each station.  I was most touched by the photograph of an Asian child wiping the tears of her mother for the sixth station (Veronica wipes the face of Jesus) and a group of Hispanic women grieving intensely for the eighth station (Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem).I remember one summer morning several years ago how I was trying to pray at the same time that the trash was being picked up in the neighborhood. I had the door open to catch the breeze; I heard the garbage truck getting closer and closer, louder and louder, as it approached the friary.  I used the distraction to get in touch with my “inner garbage”, and when they got to the front of the house and emptied our trash cans,  I let them take my inner trash along with the junk in front of the house.  I tried to implement Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:17  to “pray always” when it was creatively adapted to “pray all ways!”Praying a picture or a piece of music or a walk in the woods or even the sound of a garbage truck can be a good way to mix it up a bit, and get the juices flowing again.  This virtual way of the cross took only a few moments, but it was a stimulating moment of prayer, connecting the passion of Jesus with the suffering of people today.If friars would like to access the resource page, go to www.educationforjustice.org and put in the user name and password provided earlier.  If you forgot those, please check with Toni or Dan and make it a favorite on your computer.  You might find some ways to pray creatively this Lent!— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM