Canada National Saint Kateri Shrine

The Mohawk Choir

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Shrine, Kahnawake

July 24, 2022 at 10:45 a.m.

Commemoration Mass for the Later Bernardine Houle, organist of the Shrine for more than 60 years

In memory of Mr. Bernadine Houle

Being an extremely private and humble man, very little is known about this gentle and beloved soul. He began his career as an organist for the Iroquois Mixed Choir in 1949, when he was 29 years old. At the time, it was a four-voice choir of more than 30 members. I doubt he's ever missed a day in 60 years. He was an accomplished musician and with his talent and immense patience he also transposed some of the sacred classical pieces into four-part harmony. They made great music together.
He was a dedicated and reliable man. He never missed a Sunday, a feast day or a funeral. He left his house, took the subway, was transferred to a bus that let him down to the top of the viaduct, and unless someone offered to take him, he started walking, rain or shine. it's sunny.
He had a shy smile and an understated sense of humor. He refused to be driven home but agreed to be dropped off at the metro. He then smiled and graciously offered a candy. Not a word needed to be said.
It's hard to put a lifetime of dedication and commitment into a few sentences. We were blessed with his excellent service and he is greatly missed by all who knew him. I'm sure he's in heaven right now, accompanying the former members of The Iroquois Mixed Choir singing in perfect harmony in four voices the magnificent Panis Angelicus "RAOTINÀ:TARO". TO TEAR APART. Mr. Bernadine Houle.
Kaia'titàhkhe Annette Jacobs on behalf of the Shrine's Mohawk Mixed Choir
The Iroquois Mixed Choir of Kahnawake now known as the Mohawk Choir has been singing and performing in the Mohawk language since 1871. Louise Jocks, a blind musician and organist who taught the choir members to sing masses and hymns of two and three part “by heart” and managed them from 1871- 1921. Her successor Josephine Douglas, also a blind organist accompanied the choir from 1921-1927.
In 1927 Fr. Conrad Hauser of the Jesuit Order and stationed at the the Mission officially founded the choir, but it was under the direction of Fr. Alfred Bernier, Doctor in Sacred Music who succeeded Father Hauser in 1930 that the choir developed. For 20 (1930 -1950) years, Father Bernier through strenuous training developed a mixed choir of Mohawk Singers with a unique style that he applied to music of the school of Renaissance, the Franco Belgian school, notable artists Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Handel. Father M. Caron took over as Director from 1954-1961. He re-adapted many of the masses, the chants, hymns so that the accent, emphasis and sense of words corresponded to the music i.e. he re-set all the Gregorian and polyphonic hymns according to the Indian accent.

Of all languages, Iroquois is the most sonorous for singing. Long before this century, missionaries of the Society of Jesus sensed the important role which music could play in the Indian missions of Canada. Their voices are as sweet as they are rich, and their ear is so good that they never miss a half-tone in all the church melodies, many of which they know by heart.
The Choir’s public engagements began in 1939. The first official engagement made history in Montreal with the singing in the Iroquois Language at the High Mass in the Church of the Gésu.

Throughout the years the choir has engaged in numerous concerts and religious programs at major shrines, churches, and halls and has performed on radio in Canada and the United states.

The Mohawk Choir continues to sing every Sunday at mass and all special events including Kateri’s Feast day and Kateri’s Canonization Anniversary.
Iroquois Mixed Choir Kahnawake Iroquois Mixes Choir Kahnawake REMASTERED CD Iroquois Mixed Choir Kahnawake

Remembering Mr. Bernardin Houle

Mr Houle has been the organist of the Mohawk Choir for 62 years. He left this world last June 2020. He was close to 97 years.