Church choirs to wrap up holidays

Monroe festival offers traditional Christmas songs

12/31/2012
BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The Chapel at the IHM Motherhouse in Monroe is to be host to the annual Festival of Church Choirs on Sunday afternoon. The chapel, which opened in 1939,  will close on Monday for renovations that include brighter, more efficient lighting and a new audio system to aid the hearing-impaired.
The Chapel at the IHM Motherhouse in Monroe is to be host to the annual Festival of Church Choirs on Sunday afternoon. The chapel, which opened in 1939, will close on Monday for renovations that include brighter, more efficient lighting and a new audio system to aid the hearing-impaired.

MONROE — Choirs from five different churches will bring a close to the Christmas season at the annual Monroe County Festival of Church Choirs on Sunday.

Choirs from Christ Love Baptist, St. Paul’s United Methodist, First Presbyterian, and Monroe Missionary Baptist churches will join the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary choir in performing traditional Christmas songs at the afternoon concert at the IHM Motherhouse Chapel.

Admission is free, although free-will offerings will be accepted. The money will go toward the ongoing preservation of the IHM Motherhouse Chapel.

Sister Barbara Weigand, chairman of the IHM chapel concert committee, said the chapel will be closed the day after the concert for several months while work is done on its electrical and audio-video systems. “They’re assuring us that by Easter it will be ready,” she said.

The work is part of a multiyear preservation effort at the majestic chapel, which was built in 1938 and opened in 1939.

John Lechman, development director for IHM, said the order has so far raised $850,000 toward its goal of $1.05 million for the project. The capital campaign launched its public phase in November, 2011, and plans to complete it by September, 2013. “About half of that represents the cost to remove and restore the stained-glass windows,” Mr. Lechman said.

The windows, which were created by Mayer & Co. of Munich, are being restored one by one by Whitney Stained Glass Studio in Cleveland. Mr. Lechman said that work, which is under way, is being done over five to seven years.

“The original building of the Motherhouse began before World War II broke out and ended after World War II broke out, so some of the windows were made in Germany and others in New York,” he explained. “They’ve held up pretty well, but 72 to 74 years of Michigan winters later, they’ve been exposed to accelerated deterioration.”

The project also involves installing brighter and more efficient lighting at the chapel as well as a new audio system that will enable the hearing-impaired to use devices that will allow them to hear better regardless of where they’re seated, Mr. Lechman said.

Sunday’s concert is to begin at 3 p.m. at the chapel, 610 W. Elm Ave. Sister Barbara said a first-time Festival of Bell Choirs is planned for February. It will be at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church because of the chapel work.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.