McHENRY – Terri Widhalm and her daughter, Beth, settled into a routine for their drives to choir practice.
While praying the rosary, they listened to all their favorites – “Ave Verum” by Colin Mawby and “The Planets,” in particular the Jupiter movement, by Gustav Holst – with Beth singing along and Terri conducting.
“I get goosebumps. It’s just so beautiful,” Beth Widhalm said.
The two made their last trip to St. John Cantius in Chicago on Monday evening for the last practice before their choir – a collection of singers and musicians from the Chicago parish, St. Peter Church in Volo and St. Joseph’s College of Indiana – heads to Italy for a week full of performances.
“I never in my life – I’m almost 65 years old – I never thought for one second that I would go to Rome,” Terri Widhalm said. “We’re just simple people who just go day by day and do our thing. Then all of a sudden: ‘You’re going to Rome!’ ”
Widhalm and her husband, Tom, have six children, including Beth, and 14 grandchildren.
She has directed the adult choir at St. Peter for six years. She was the director of the children’s choir at St. Mary Catholic Church in McHenry for 14 years before that.
Beth, 23, practically grew up singing, her mother said, adding that she would take her up in the choir loft during rehearsals and services. She’s taking voice training and hopes to one day sing professionally.
Their weeklong tour includes two concerts and Mass every day, starting in Florence, then moving to Siena, Rome, Vatican City and Pompeii. They’ll perform the classical music promoted by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, a religious community dedicated to bringing the beauty back to the sacred.
“The music that we do there centers on God, not on us,” Terri Widhalm said. “It’s praise and worship of God. If you look at a lot of the modern music, it’s about me, and that’s not what we want to do. We want to praise and worship God.”
While the two talk giddily of the music they’ll be performing, ticking off all their favorites, the highlight will be seeing the Vatican and hopefully having Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, another proponent of the classical sacred music, hear them, Terri Widhalm said.
“My goal is to get a picture with [the pope], just like next to him, be like, ‘What’s up, Pope Francis?’” Beth Widhalm joked. “Selfie with the pope on my camera phone.”