Getting to know the director of the Liturgical Choir and the Basilica Schola
His cereal never gets soggy. He has never waited 15 minutes after finishing a meal before returning to the pool. Model trains dream of having him conduct them. When he drives his car out of the Basilica parking lot, its price increases in value. His choir robe has been on the “best dressed” list twice. He is the life of parties he has never attended. He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.
He is Dr. Andrew McShane.
Dr. Andrew McShane—or “Andy” to close comrades—is the Associate Director of Music and Choirs at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, as well as the Director of the Basilica Schola and the Liturgical Choir. Through the Liturgical Choir, I have been fortunate enough to sing under his direction. And through the Rover, I had the pleasure of interviewing this most interesting, humble, humorous, and wonderfully talented man whom Team LC has come to know and love.
Andy is the youngest of eight children in the McShane family, who hail from the Detroit region. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Church Music at Wayne State University in Detroit, but he explained how he came to be at Notre Dame. “Since everyone around me was a Michigan fan, I was never exposed to Notre Dame,” he said. “My recruitment coordinator, Craig Cramer, led me there because of their masters program in Music and Organ Performance and Literature.” It was here that Andy collaborated with and befriended the late Basilica Director of Music and Choirs, Gail Walton, while also accompanying Gail Walton at Notre Dame. “I had the intention of going back home and working for the Archdiocese of Detroit, but when I graduated in 1994, Notre Dame created a position for me. And I’ve been here ever since.” While McShane was working at Notre Dame, he was also earning a doctorate degree of Music in Organ and Church Music at Northwestern University, which he received in 2002.
Curious, I asked what kept him at Notre Dame these twenty-odd years. “It is the students, specifically from the Liturgical Choir. For a group with relatively few music majors, they are so devoted to their work and will do anything to provide the Church with a beautiful sound.” He continued, “The openness and level of intelligence among the members of Team LC is incredible.”
After his 20 years of interacting with musical students, faculty, and waves of people receiving the Sacraments, McShane has witnessed more than a fair share of humorous moments. He shared one such moment with the Rover: “The Liturgical Choir was asked to sing at a wedding. For a handful of ceremonies we accompany for, the cantata ‘Rise Up, My Love’ has been a bridal party favorite. Unfortunately, at this particular wedding, the bride fainted. I then turned to the choir and suggested we sing, ‘Rise Up, My Love.’”
Although “Rise Up, My Love” did not make Andy’s A-List of choral pieces, he no less shared his favorite. “‘Serenade to Music’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams is excellent,” he said. And among his favorite liturgical pieces, he added, include “all things Palestrina.”
I next asked what his favorite season is. Andy jokingly yet jovially replied, “Football.” He proceeded to disclose why his favorite season is actually Easter, saying, “It contains the foundation of our faith and the promise of salvation. And I think our liturgical music expresses to a large extent this victory and great mystery.”
I then asked how on earth he makes the music happen. He shared almost every detail, from the rising of the sun to its setting: “I get up with a cup of coffee, and I hit my email while watching The Today Show. I get to work around 9 a.m., have a lot of meetings, accompany at Basilica daily Mass, and direct Liturgical Choir rehearsals on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Basilica Schola’s on Wednesdays.” He added, “Sunday morning Mass at 10 a.m. is the culmination of our fruits.”
It is hard to believe there is room for warm-up and deep breathing exercises with such an intricate to-do list. But being Dr. Andrew McShane, he finds room. He doesn’t always have free time, but when he does, he prefers gardening and listening to classical music.
Before Andy was off and running to his next event (most likely about installing the Basilica’s new Murdy Family Organ), I had the chance to ask a piece of advice he’d like to share with us. He paused and said with all sincerity of heart, “Take advantage of every opportunity at Notre Dame. Work hard, because you are only in the Notre Dame stream for a little while; do the most you can while you are here.” His guiding philosophy as it relates to Our Lady’s University? “Do the work of the Church here to my fullest potential until I am no longer needed.”
Tierney Vrdolyak is a junior studying the Program of Liberal Studies and Theology, as well as Business Economics. In her free-spirited time, she enjoys singing in the Liturgical Choir, journaling, wearing bright-patterned socks, and creating competitive Just Dance tournaments in her humble abode of Breen-Phillips Hall. If you enjoy playing pick-up of any kind or chatting about the benefits of joining a local sock of the month club, contact Tierney at firstname.lastname@example.org.