In memoriam: Remembering Brother Pedro’s words and music

by Michael O. Garvey


His voice, a hoarse but purring baritone, was uniquely suited for the intimacy of radio, and no one who tuned in to WSND-FM on Sunday evenings will ever forget it.

Brother Pedro Haering, C.S.C., died Sunday at Dujarie House in Holy Cross Village in South Bend.He was 85 years old.

For the last three years of his life, Brother Pedro lived at Holy Cross Village, his religious communitys assisted living facility, where he was always a welcome lunch and dinner companion and where he always seemed to preside at table.

He spoke slowly and deliberately, as if he were composing an essay out loud, but whether discoursing on his fondness for French vanilla ice cream and bananas, his distaste for hard rock music, or the foibles of his friends, Brother Pedro always seemed able to assert in one tone both confident authority and tender affection.

For the last 19 years, that tone suffused the series of programs he produced twice weekly for the Notre Dame student/volunteer radio station WSND under the titlesPerformers of Our TimeandWords and Music Remembered.

I look at popular music as an art form,Brother Pedro once said.I think the music of the era, roughly early ‘30s through late ‘50s, presents the highest form of popular music that we have. I wish I had time to write a book about it. In fact, when I started these radio programs I had to choose between continuing them or writing the book.

Musicology was undoubtedly diminished by this choice, but a large and variegated radio audience enjoyed the resulting programs, each an imaginatively constructed arrangement of recordings from Brother Pedros immense and meticulously
catalogued collection of some 11,000 vinyl albums; 6,000 45 rpm records and countless CDs.

He began collecting records as a teenager in Evansville, Ind., during an era when 10-inch disks were played on turntables at 78 rpm and could be purchased for as little as a dime apiece.He continued the hobby while taking vows as a Holy Cross brother in 1943, being graduated from Notre Dame in 1947 and earning a masters degree in mathematics from the University in 1951.

Throughout a long career as a high school teacher and administrator, diocesan school superintendent and religious superior, Brother Pedro never lost his enthusiasm for popular music, but he remained particularly fond of the swing era, and his radio programs, each surrounding a specific theme, were conspicuous for their partiality to it.

He continued to produce them while living at Holy Cross Village, each beginning with Otto CesanasEnchantment,and each interspersing the performances of such masters as Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw with Brother Pedros authoritative commentary.

And that commentary was itself often interspersed by Brother Pedros soft and rasping chuckle, a sound every bit as agreeable as the best of the swing era.His audience will miss that music most of all.

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