About the Director
I am a hometown (Chicago) boy, #2 child of 4 growing up in Lakeview-now known as Wrigleyville.
Dad was a career fireman and Mom at home until we started Catholic grade school at St. Sebastian
later on. I showed interest in music from early on and started drum lessons with my dad when I
was 4 years old. Poor Mom — two drummers in the same house! At 8 I joined a Drum Corps –
the Nisei Ambassadors and proceeded to have wonderful experiences in music, competition, and
discipline. I've had sticks or mallets in my hands ever since. While yet a public schooler, I
made All City Grade school Band and Choir for a few years. My High School years and a year
beyond were spent in Catholic Seminary at St. Vincent DePaul in Lemont and later at St. Mary's
Novitiate in Santa Barbara California. I had plenty of opportunities to play, sing and learn
Organ and Piano with some great teachers. I learned much about liturgical ritual and music.
College was a foregone conclusion for me at DePaul University as a Music Education Major. My
interests were varied academically so I ended up with minors in Theology, Philosophy, Acoustics
and my applied minors were in Organ/Piano, and of course Percussion. I played in the Symphonic
Band, Orchestra, Jazz Band, Percussion Ensemble, and sang in the University Choir. At the same
time I was with at least one band gigging as much as possible to pay for tuition. For my efforts
I earned my BM.Ed Magna cum Laude.
Meanwhile, I was Music Director at St. Sebastian Parish in Chicago…my home parish. My career
led me more and more into choral-vocal and into the world of Church Music (St. Sebastian (10 years),
Our Lady of Perpetual Help-Glenview for just over 5 years, St. Clare of Montefalco-1 year,
St. Ita Parish-10 years, St. Isaac Jogues-Niles just over 5 years, Director of Liturgical Music
at the Office for Divine Worship for 3 years, Old St. Mary's Parish (1st parish in Chicago) 5
years and now I am at St Bartholomew Parish 10+ years and counting). In all this time, I have
either taught at the parish schools or another one including (Our Lady of Tepeyac 4 years and
at St. Maria Goretti (now closed)).
Some other experiences have included:
NCEA National conventions
International Stewardship Convention
NPM National Convention here in Chicago
as well as many other special events including
the Archdiocesan Sesquicentennial celebration in Grant park
the Mass with Pope St. John Paul II just to name a few.
Always having had an interest in ethnic music I became the Director of the Irish Heritage
Singers in Chicago, where we concertized, recorded and produced a CD, "Tir Na Ceol" and competed
in the Sligo International Choral Festival in Sligo county Sligo, Ireland. After seven
years with them, I found myself with The Milwaukee Irish Fest Choir. This is the resident
choral group (High Schoolers and Collegiates) of the Fest, the Largest Irish Fest in the U.S.
that went to Ireland again performing ten concerts in ten days and lots of pub sings.
Produced two albums with them, sang at seven Brewers games, toured the Midwest and sang with
many Irish Notables including: Eileen Ivers, Liz Carroll, The Irish Tenors, Gaelic Storm,
The Elders, Tom Sweeney, Tommy Makem and lots of others.
During my time with the Heritage Singers I came across the Normennenes Singing Society (15+ years
ago now), a male Norwegian Chorus and have not stopped. This is one of the longest tenured
choral groups in the U.S. (150 years to be exact). countless Concerts, Sangerfests, Singers
Nights and Collaborations with brother singers. We've even sung at Ski Jump Competitions for
the Olympics! About five years ago now I also came across the Grieg Ladies Singers, one of
the last Female Norwegian Choruses left in the US, also just tenured over 100 years and I
continue to direct them as well. When not in some form of pandemic protocol I have three
extant Choirs at St. Bartholomew: English, Spanish, and Children's.
In these many years, I have been privileged to sing/play and conduct at St. Patrick's
Cathedral in Dublin, Notre Dame in Montreal, Downepatrick (the burial site of St. Patrick).
I conducted in Sligo Ireland, Conducted at the Galway Street Fest and for the Titanic
Museum in Belfast as well as in the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
I've played at Medinah Temple; Both the original and 2nd incarnation of the Grant Park
Band Shells, Arie Crown Theater, Holy Name Cathedral-Chicago, the Auditorium Theatre-Chicago,
The Irish American Heritage Center and countless other local and regional venues.
I have arranged and composed many pieces for and in Irish, Norwegian, Religious and popular
genres over the years. I am also published in several journals regarding mostly Ritual Music.
I am married to a saint, Diana my wife of 37 years and am blessed with a son who is finishing
his degree in Computer science soon at you guessed it, DePaul University.
This doesn't begin to tell the stories of the people I've been involved with over this time
frame. Many happy, some sad, but always with a common purpose and love (Music) I am
Lev Sangen! Chuck Kessell