JOLIET – On March 15, classical harpist Wilhelmine Vidmar will greet attendees to the Joliet Franciscans’ “Celebration of the Fine Arts” with the perhaps the ultimate tribute – her harp music.
As a 9-year-old in the mid-1950s, Vidmar, of Plainfield, began taking piano and harp lessons from Sister M. Charles Zieverink (deceased), a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate in Joliet, also known as the Joliet Franciscans.
Vidmar said Zieverink insisted those lessons continue during those years Vidmar was a student at the former all-girls St. Francis Academy – where Vidmar played harp in the school orchestra – as well as the College of St. Francis, both in Joliet.
“My mother would say, ‘Too bad you didn’t pick up the flute,’ ” Vidmar said. “It would be easier to carry.”
Through the years, Vidmar has played harp at weddings and various other events, and she still practices several times a week.
“I enjoy the feel and sound of it,” Vidmar said. “It’s very soothing.”
The four sponsoring institutions of the Joliet Franciscans – Franciscan Learning Center, Joliet Catholic Academy, University of St. Francis and Our Lady of Angels – will display art and perform musical selections in the free one-hour show, part of the order’s 150th anniversary celebration, said Regina Block, chief advancement officer at the University of St Francis.
“We’re just inviting people to come and celebrate [the sisters’] heritage,” Block said, “and to show our love and support for their years of service to the community.”
Through the years, the Joliet Franciscans have expanded and developed their commitment to education in the many facets of fine arts, Block said, along with composing and performing. Today, Joliet Franciscans offer numerous programs to people of all ages, preschoolers as young as 3 and up through senior citizens.
Sister Margaret McGuckin, co-director of the Franciscan Learning Center in Joliet and overseer of and teacher with its fine arts program, said students create artwork in a variety of mediums – including clay, paper and watercolor – and learn rhythm and beat, musical notation and how to play the xylophone and handbell.
The children also sing, act in plays and design their own costumes, McGuckin said. These, she added, help the children develop motor skills, creativity and confidence.
“They’re not afraid to get up and be a character,” McGuckin said.
Sister Odelia Kloc, music therapist at Our Lady of Angels, also will be there, playing with and directing the eight-member chime choir, all residents of the retirement home. Just one man belongs to the choir; and except for one woman in her mid-70s, the members are in their 80s and 90s. Kloc admires their commitment to the choir.
“They practice faithfully once a week for 45 minutes,” Kloc said.
Only half read music, Kloc said. Each member plays two notes, the regular note and one sharp or flat. Members play single notes and work together to form chords, Kloc said. The choir performs four to five half-hour concerts each year and one 45-minute Christmas concert.
Kloc began the choir in 2001 to give residents the opportunity to create beautiful music and to practice concentration skills. She preferred chimes to hand bells for their mellow tone and lighter weight.
“With bells, the deeper the note, the bigger the bell,” Kloc said. “I thought that would be too difficult for the residents.”
Peg Stoiber, chair of JCA’s fine arts department, said the school’s fine arts program has continued to expand ever since she first stepped through its doors in 1965 as a St. Francis Academy freshman.
Music students today learn everything from appreciation to theory, Stoiber said. The art program has expanded to include two computer art classes, she added.
“We have a large variety of classes for our students,” Stoiber said. “We deal with everyone, from the serious [art] students who wants to onto college to the students who need an outlet.”
MORE ONLINE Visit this story at TheHerald-News.com for a video of the chime choir at Our Lady of Angels retirement home in Joliet practicing “Edelweiss.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Celebration of the Fine Arts
WHEN: 1 p.m. March 15
WHERE: University of St. Francis, Sullivan Hall, 500 Wilcox St., Joliet
ETC: Artwork and musical selections by the Franciscan Learning Center, Joliet Catholic Academy, University of St. Francis and Our Lady of Angel in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate. Refreshments.
INFORMATION: Regina Block at 815-740-5065