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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:

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 so blessed!

Lev Sangen!
Chuck Kessell