This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Christine Tamani

Christine Tamani
July 8, 1948 – June 12, 2016

During the Spirit-filled days and years following the close of the Second Vatican Council, the “folk mass” was becoming a standard in American parish after American parish. No musician who lived through that era can forget the upheaval that existed at the local level. Very suddenly, a new day had arrived. Overnight, organs were replaced with guitars, and Latin chants with English songs. Some church music careers were abruptly born and others were rearranged or altered. Unfortunately, some damage occurred, but likewise, good things emerged. This tribute relates the story of just one individual who lived through those spirit-filled days as the Spirit overflowed from within her.

Christine Tamani was born during the very beginning of the post World War II baby boom. God blessed her with two gifts that nurtured her throughout life. Chris loved the church, plain and simple. Secondly, when it came to liturgy and music she would not settle for anything less than the very best. She bore little patience for the mundane.

In 1970 she graduated from Mundelein College located on Chicago’s North Shore. The college, which was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) from Dubuque, Iowa, became an incorporated college of neighboring Loyola University of Chicago in 1991. Chris attended Mundelein during the presidency of Sr. Mary Ann Ida Gannon, BVM and was formed under the guidance of this highly regarded and forward looking religious woman. It was her influence that was most evident in Chris’s life of ministry.

Chris learned piano as a child and taught herself, later in life, to play the guitar. Her ministry as a pastoral musician began shortly after college graduation as leader of the parish folk mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church located in Chicago’s East Lakeview community. During that era in many Chicago parishes, the guitar mass, considered less than appropriate for church, was often held in the parish hall, auditorium, or gymnasium. Her reputation as a capable musician grew at Mt. Carmel, and her love for liturgical music and the art of fostering assembly participation blossomed there in Mt. Carmel’s meeting hall.

A happy coincidence occurred while Chris was attending St. Thomas the Apostle High School in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood; her talents and spirit came to the attention of the newly ordained parish priest, Fr. Robert Oldershaw. She was a member of the parish’s children’s choir and played a leading role in a high school production of Tea House of the August Moon. This connection was significant because in subsequent years, Fr. Oldershaw would go on to his assignment at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral and was eventually appointed Co-Director for Music for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s newly formed Office for Divine Worship (ODW). Aware of Chris’s gifts from high school and her success at Mt. Carmel, Oldershaw invited her to join the music department at the cathedral and lead the parish’s contemporary choir. He then appointed her to ODW’s volunteer Archdiocesan Music Staff. She was the first musician to serve on the Music Staff, as well as the first person to serve on the staff’s predecessor office the Archdiocesan Music Commission, whose primary source of repertoire was guitar-based.

Holy Name Cathedral’s Contemporary Choir blossomed under Chris’s capable leadership. Members were drawn from the local cathedral community and, as word spread, additional participants from across the Chicago metropolitan area were inspired to join. One member traveled a good distance on public transportation, week after week and rehearsal after rehearsal, with her toddler son in tow. Students studying medicine at Northwestern University, located just a short distance from the cathedral, participated from time to time, before being sent off to complete their residencies in far flung places. Single members turned into marrieds, and marrieds into parents, as the season of Advent gave way to the Feast of Christ the King for fifteen odd years. In addition to their regular Sunday noon mass, the group was asked to lead music for various archdiocesan celebrations as well as other cathedral feasts and solemnities. As a tribute to Chris and the countless individuals who found a home in her choir, one of the members fashioned “The Tamani Tree” after her death, which details in chronological order, every music maker who ever participated in the choir.

Chris worked in the music department of the Cathedral during the leadership of music directors Foster Deihl, Kenneth Haycraft, and most notably, during the era of Richard Proulx. Richard held her in high esteem and considered himself blessed to have a gifted contemporary choir director on his staff. He often included Chris’s choir in special cathedral parish liturgical celebrations.

Chris became an active and influential member of ODW’s Music Staff. She chaired and co-chaired bi-annual “Folk Festivals” that featured the likes of Gary Ault, Mike Balhoff, Buddy Ceasar, Bob Dufford, S.J., Roc O’Connor S. J., Marty Haugen, Michael Joncas, Tom Conry, and Tom Kendzia, as well as other composers of the era. Through the years, thousands of participants registered for these joyful and important events that helped form parish music making and assembly participation throughout the Chicago area. ODW events were the only source of liturgical training for many of the young, enthusiastic parish music leaders. Chris also served on the music committee for Chicago’s first papal mass in 1979. During one of his numerous visits to Chicago, Alexander Peloquin heard Chris’s guitar rendition of his setting of the Fred Kaan text, “Jesus Shepherd of Our Souls.” He subsequently, affectionately, and humorously dubbed her “my favorite guitarist!”

Eventually, Chris decided it was time to step away from music directing. She explained to the Cathedral rector, Bishop Timothy Lyne, “I don’t want to be a forty-year-old guitar player.” The bishop chuckled and assured her he understood.

But her music making did not skip a beat. Along with some of her fellow members of the cathedral group, she migrated a bit north to St. Josephat Church and joined the fine music program that was already flourishing. She loved her days there and was happy to be a part of the Josephat community. She was a choir member, cantor, and served on the parish council. Later in life, she joined the Archdiocesan Filipino Choir that leads song at Holy Name Cathedral on a semi-monthly basis. She loved learning songs in Tagalog, the native tongue of her ancestors, and making music once again in her beloved cathedral. After her death, the current music director at Holy Name, Dr. Ricardo Ramirez wrote to the Archdiocesan Music Staff, “At our rehearsal today, many singers remembered her spirituality, grace, and, infectious laugh.”

Chris was a lifetime resident of Chicago’s magnificent Lake Michigan shoreline. She grew to be an avid boating fan, became a member of Chicago’s Coast Guard Auxiliary, and rose in the ranks serving a term as Commodore. In addition to her pioneering work in the liturgical music arena, Chris spent many years at the Archdiocese of Chicago as a liaison with the City of Chicago, administrating federal programs. Through her efforts, summer after summer, thousands of high school age students obtained a seasonal job. Following that position, she was employed as the business manager for the USA Province of the Order of Friars, Servants of Mary (Servites).

Her funeral was a tribute to her eclectic music ministry and the many people she inspired and led in song with love and laughter. A choir of nearly fifty singers and instrumentalists sang and played loudly with all their skill at her Mass of Christian Burial. Chris’s fellow choir members from St. Josephat joined former members of Holy Name Cathedral’s contemporary choir. Songs like Schutte’s “City of God” and Andre Crouch’s “Soon and Very Soon” were sung, along with “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” by Howard Hughes, S.M. and Fred Pratt Green’s text “When in Our Music God Is Glorified” set to ENGELBERG. Members of the Archdiocesan Filipino Choir sang Manuel Francisco’s “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” in Tagalog after communion. Piano, two flutes, and trumpet rounded out the ensemble along with a select number of singers that knew her through ODW. Interestingly some of the singers from her Cathedral days traveled to Chicago all the way from Toronto, Canada, St. Louis, Missouri, and Las Vegas, Nevada just to help sing Chris off to eternity. Fr. Robert Oldershaw, Fr. Daniel Coughlin (ODW’s founding director), and a Friar representing the Servite community concelebrated with Fr. Mike Bradley from St. Josephat.

Along with her piano and guitar, the last of her earthly belongings included two copies of the Liber Usualis located not far away from a sampling of the latest new mass settings published for the fourth translation of the Roman Missal. Tucked away in a closet was a framed NPM (National Association of Pastoral Musicians) poster from the Association’s Second Annual Convention held in Chicago in 1980. Like so many other members of the “spirit-filled” generation, as her pastoral music making matured, Chris became as comfortable with Hillert’s “Festival Canticle” and a Gregorian setting of the Kyrie or Agnus Dei as she was with Joncas’s “On Eagle’s Wings”. Her love of hymnody from centuries past as well as from the ranks of the hymn revolution that took place in the second half of the 20th century, rounded out her eclectic taste that developed over forty plus years of pastoral music making. Like many of her fellow folk mass musicians, organists, and choral directors of the same era, over time, her pastoral musical experience influenced her musical sensitivities.

Chris was one of the many individuals at the parish level who introduced the post-conciliar church to a new song. She led the people of God from the simple song to the scripture based text; from the four-hymn mass to “Music in Catholic Worship”; from worship utilizing one musical style to blended worship; from a congregation of passive observers to an assembly of full, active, and conscious participants. And, she brought the folk mass from the parish hall to the archdiocesan cathedral.

Her life of service ended abruptly. Although she was taken too soon, just shy of her 68th birthday, her life was well lived and she left the world a better place. The heart attack she suffered was mercifully brief. She was laid to rest next to her parents in St. Mary Cemetery located on Chicago’s south side.

Tribute prepared by Michael A. Cymbala with help from members of The Tamani Tree.