History of the Choir

A Brief History of the Magnificat Choir


  • Patrick Gorman, a graduate assistant in music and liturgy, founds the Women’s Ensemble in the Fall of 1986. Craig Westendorf, the Chapel Choir director at the time, is the supervising professor. The choir begins its long-standing tradition of singing quality sacred music from all stylistic periods with special attention given to choral literature written specifically for women’s voices. 


  • The choir sings for two concerts and a Mass in both the ‘86-’87 and the ‘87-’88 school years. These performances took place in Anennburg Auditorium in the Snite Muesum, Moreau Seminary Chapel, and Lafortune Student Center.


  • In the Fall of 1988, Teresa Kniahynycky (DuSell) assumes directorship of the choir.
  • The Women’s Ensemble becomes the Notre Dame Women’s Choir in 1988.
  • The choir begins singing the 5pm Vigil Mass in Sacred Heart Church (now the Basilica of the Sacred Heart). Fr. Daniel Jenky, CSC, Rector of Sared Heart, (now Bishop of Peoria, Illinois) gives the choir a unique name: “Les Petites Chanteuses de Notre Dame”, which translated is “The Little Singers of Our Lady”.


  • In the Fall of 1989, Sr. Patricia Clark, SVM, becomes the director of the Women’s Choir. Under the leadership of Sr. “Trish”, the choir blossoms.
  • Sr. Trish establishes the choir as one of the principle Basilica choirs.
  • Membership increases from 15 women to more than 40 in a short time.
  • Sr. Trish introduces pieces such as Mozart’s setting of “Ave Verum Corpus” and Mendelssohn’s setting of “Lift Thine Eyes to the Mountains” which remain foundational to the choir’s repertoire today.
  • Registering with the Club Coordination Coucil makes the choir an official club of the University under the jurisdiction of Campus Ministry. This warrants the birth of the officer board, the need for a budget, and the purchase of music. Sponsoring a concession stand for home football games is (to this day) a primary source of income. The Department of Music and Campus Ministry assign graduate assistants and organists to the choir.


  • Dr. Andrew McShane becomes the director of the newly-renamed University of Notre Dame Women’s Liturgical Choir in the Fall of 1995.
  • The choir begins hosting a retreat each Fall for its members to grow spiritually and as a community


  • In the Spring of 1997, the choir plans its first-ever appearance outside of South Bend: Dayton, Ohio. The trip is only over a weekend, but this begins the longstanding tradition of a spring tour. Locations and photos for subsequent tours appear on the following pages.


  • The Women’s Liturgical Choir collaborates with the University’s Basilica Schola and Liturgical Choir on the recording of their first CD, “Cantate Domino.” 


  • "Lift Thine Eyes,” the first recording exclusively featuring the Women’s Liturgical Choir, is released.
  • The completion of ColemanMorse Center in the Spring of 2001 gives the choir a new home for its rehearsals, offices, and choral library.


  • The Women’s Liturgical Choir collaborates with the University’s Basilica Schola and Liturgical Choir on the recording of their third album, “Ave Maria” in 2004.


  • In the Fall of 2008, Daniel Bayless assumes directorship of the Women’s Liturgical Choir


  • The university suffered a great loss when Direcor of Music at the Basilica, Dr. Walton, lost her long battle with lieukemia on February 24th, 2010. She was instrumental in the formation of the choir and often assisted with rehearsals and Masses. A rehearsal room in Coleman-Morse Center has since been dedicated in her memory


  • Under the direction of Daniel Bayless, the choir releases their fourth CD, "Cantica."


  • Dr. Patrick Kronner is named the new director of the Women's Liturgical Choir


  • While touring Toronto and Montréal, the choir's concert in Toronto is televised across Canada and the United States on a broadcast from Salt + Light Television


  • The choir undertakes its first overseas tour: a pilgrimage to the Holy Cross Missions in Canto Grande, Lima, Peru. 
  • The choir performs and is featured on Peruvian television
  • The choir sponsors their first ever national composition contest. Two prizes are awarded after receiving dozens of entries from across the country. 


  • In order to better reflect the choir's mission, the ensemble announces it will now be known as the Notre Dame Magnificat Choir. This decision follows years of  reflection, prayer, and discussion with students, alumnae, and communications professionals. The choir also announces its new mission statement and reveals an updated logo. 


  • The choir begins work on a new album feature the texts and music of female writers, composers, and saints