Dameans are pitch perfect for 50th reunion concert

Posted June 22, 2018 at 12:00 am

By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

Armed with snacks and bottles of water, more than 50 people lined up to board a chartered bus headed to a music concert in New Orleans on Sunday, June 3.  

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The Dameans, a group of Notre Dame seminary students who became popular in the 1960s and 70s for their Catholic folk music Mass, reunite 50 years later for a concert to benefit the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Center. Pictured, from left, Gary Daigle, Darryl Ducote, Mike Balhoff, Paul Cesar and Gary Ault.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator 

 

However, the draw of this musical group and the generation of these fans goes back 50 years to 1968 when The Dameans, a group of seminarians from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, were formed. The group wrote contemporary Catholic liturgical music to be played at Mass, following reforms of the Second Vatican Council, launching the Catholic folk Mass movement of the 1960s and 70s. The five members of The Dameans, Gary Daigle, Darryl Ducote, Mike Balhoff, Paul Ceasar and Gary Ault, were holding a 50th Year Reunion Concert at Ursuline Academy Auditorium to benefit the Archdiocese of New Orleans Retreat Centre. Ducote is the director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  

“(My) kids memorized those songs easy,” said Mary Porche, a parishioner of St. Patrick Church in Baton Rouge. “We lived in Metairie so we walked to Mass, so the girls, I had 3 little girls, and they’d be singing as we walked to church.”  

“(The kids) could identify with it, they liked the upbeat pace of it,” said Mary Lynn Segalla, a fellow St. Patrick parishioner. “My children loved to go to LSU (for Mass) because, of course, they were playing the guitar music, they were into the new scene. We often would go to the Sunday evening Mass at Christ the King in order to hear the music – the ‘new’ music.”  

The excitement was palpable on the bus.  

“This reminds me of going to a high school football game except the language is a lot cleaner,” said someone, generating laughter, chatter and lots of smiles.  

Melanie Williams, a travel company owner and a cantor and member of the choir at St. Patrick, said she decided to organize the bus trip after learning about the concert.  

“I love the Dameans,” she said. “As a cantor, as a choir member, I grew up listening to the Dameans music, so the trip down here I was really very passionate about, you know there’s so many in Baton Rouge that have listened to the Dameans and I thought what a wonderful way for us to experience it.  

“I grew up with the music. (And) one of the things, I used to sing for weddings, is the song, “Beginning Today,” which was very popular back then. But, their music has always been so timeless in our Catholic faith and so many people, when you mention the Dameans, are like, ‘Wow! You’re going to go see the Dameans’ – yeah, it’s exciting because they have such wonderful music that they have given to our Catholic faith that it’s just amazing.”  

Father Eric Gyan, pastor at St. Theresa of Avila Church in Gonzales, said he used the excursion as a “little staff appreciation.”  

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Loyal fans of The Dameans get ready for a road trip to New Orleans to see the band perform for a 50th year reunion benefit concert. Fifty-five people from around the Diocese of Baton Rouge took advantage of the chartered bus ride from the Catholic Life Center to the Ursuline Academy Auditorium.

 

“I love the Dameans, I’ve always loved their music. I still wish we could get it into the hymnals that we use,” said Father Gyan. “When I go walking I’ll hear myself still humming some of their songs. They apparently did a lot of their work there (at St. Theresa) because Gary Daigle, his family grew up there. Mike Balhoff was there (as a priest). They used to talk about practicing there and composing there and previewing their songs. So, we know we have a rich connection to them.  

“There’s still a timelessness to a number of the pieces. They don’t sound dated like they’re just 60s music. They’re just beautiful, beautiful pieces and very scriptural. Some of the texts are straight out of the liturgy of the hours that priests pray; it’s the translation of the psalms in the liturgy of the hours. Some of the texts are word for word.”  

“The thing I really like is (the songs) are scripture centered in so many ways, said Deacon Bill Blair, also a member of St. Theresa.  

Nearly two hours before the concert began, crowds gathered outside of the Ursuline Academy Auditorium, which had general seating for the 805 ticket holders. It was a sold out performance. When the concert began, the audience lit up, cheering and applauding for the five men who walked up to the microphones on stage. Fifty years after beginning their journey into the music industry, their voices were still on pitch, on cue and strong, lifting up fans, hearts and souls of all ages.  

With a bit of comedy and story telling sprinkled in with the songs, The Dameans hit the right note with their loyal fans. It was a solid two hours of hand-clapping, toe-tapping, sing-along fun with audience members swooning every time the group launched into another favorite tune which included “Without Clouds,” “Sing Alleluia, Sing” and “Beatitudes.” When the group launched into “Let Your Light Shine,” several people in the audience held up their cell phone flashlights and waved them to the beat of the music, in perfect harmony between the past and the present. In the end, The Demeans brought the house down, or on their feet, for not one, but two lengthy standing ovations, with the second one after their encore performance of “Song of Thanksgiving.” </span id=”18″>

“I didn’t want it to end,” said Gail Harris, a member of St. Jude the Apostle Church in Baton Rouge.  

“I felt like I was in my living room because it was so comfortable,” said Patricia Martina, another St. Jude parishioner.  

“It brought back a lot of memories,” said Alice Blair, wife of Deacon Blair and a member of St. Theresa of Avila Church.  

“It brought back so many memories,” said Leah Sadden, a parishioner of Holy Ghost Church in Hammond.  

“To me, it was very warm,” said Anita Harper, a parishioner at St. Jude the Apostle Church. “I mean they were so cordial, and the songs are beautiful, but they made it light, with a little bit of comedy in it. It was just perfect. I just thought it was wonderful. Everybody sang along and clapped and cried.”  

DVDs of the performance will be available at retreats.arch-no.org. 

 

 

 

 

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