lithaz.org: home & art/culture events organizations publications
8/26/2011
Lithuanians in Arizona:
Lithuanian Choir

With the start of Lithuanian church services at the chapel of the Sacred Heart Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1968, a group of Lithuanian worshippers started to accompany the services with Lithuanian church hymns. Encouraged by Rev. A. Valiu�ka, the singers started to form themselves into a choir, periodically getting together for choir practice. An Irish-American resident of the Home and a former professor of drawing and music at Temple University and aunt of Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt, Margaret M. Walsh, agreed to lead the choir and also became the first organist for the Lithuanian Mission. Although she knew no Lithuanian and her hearing was getting wore, Margaret Walsh was able to perform these duties for about two years. Some of the Sisters found it enjoyable to join in the singing. Sister Aimee sang solo and with the choir and Sister Gabrielle helped out on the organ.

The choir made a major step forward with the arrival in the Phoenix area of the Metrikis family in the spring of 1971. Mrs. Ona Metrikis was musically educated. She was an accomplished pianist, composer, and conductor. She took charge of the choir and soon the quality of the singing was greatly improved. The choir also expanded its repertoire. During Lent in 1972, the choir performed a concert of religous hymns. The performance included one of Ona Metrikis compositions "Hymn to St. Casimir." On 1973 Shrovetide the choir gave a concert in the Ukrainian Hall. The choir accompanied by Ona Metrikis on the piano also contributed to the cultural part of the Lithuanian Independence Commemoration.

The most active period in the life of the choir, however, came to an end, when Ona Metrikis moved back to Los Angeles in 1975.For a time the leadership of the choir was taken by Sister Gabrielle, later by Evelyn Winters, a resident in the Home and former pianist, and from September 1976 by choir member Rose Sanders.