Shorewood - Quick and lively, slow and thoughtful, at times light, at others thunderous, the sounds of piano and violin rang off the high ceiling of St. Robert Parish on Sunday, commemorating the church's 100th birthday in song.
Before a rapt audience of nearly 400, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster and St. Robert parishioner Frank Almond, accompanied by acclaimed pianist Jeannie Yu, played an hourlong concert, drawing a roar of applause at the end of each song.
"Several months ago (the church) got in touch with me and asked if I might participate in some way, that that were doing some special event for the centennial," Almond said, "and so I said, how about a concert?"
St. Robert was incorporated in 1912, a one-room temporary wooden church was erected in July 1913, and a permanent structure - now part of St. Robert School - built in October 1913. The current church building opened in 1937, two years before long-time parishioner and St. Robert historian Margaret Sankovitz began attending school there.
Of course, the school has changed since here time there.
"It was very, very traditional," recalled Sankovitz. "We all sat at desks that were bolted to the floor in rows, and we didn't have all the disciplines we have now."
In Sankovitz's recollection, the subjects then were religion, history, geography, civics, math, reading, and spelling. Now, the sciences are taught in concert with other subjects, girls now have organized sports teams, and the classes are no long taught by nuns.
"In some ways, I look at the school and think it's the same school," said Sankovitz, "but in ways it's not."
Playing to the choirs
And it wasn't just St. Robert Parish's history displayed and celebrated Sunday. Almond's violin, the famed Lipinski Stradivarius, was crafted in 1715 by renowned Italian violinmaker Antonio Stradivari and at one time owned by Polish violinist Karol Lipinski.
"It's one of those amazing tools to have," said Almond, whose two daughters go to school at St. Robert. "There's quite a history behind it."
Almond put his - and his violin's - reputation to work, drawing the crowd to celebrate St. Robert's centennial, not all of whom were parishioners.
"It allowed us to bring in people from the community into our beautiful church," Sankovitz said.
Indeed, the history must be interesting, and the concert extraordinary, to get Wisconsinites out on a Sunday afternoon in the fall.
"We fit it in between masses and weddings and things like that," Almond said.
"And the Packer game," he added, chuckling. "We got them out here before the Packer game."
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