Gail Walton: Amid the choirs of angels

Author: Rev. Peter D. Rocca, CSC

Having served as the rector of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of Notre Dame now for almost 13 years, I have had the honor and privilege of knowing and working closely with Dr. Gail Walton, in her capacity as director of music at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A gifted organist and choral conductor, Gail always strove for musical excellence, whether in her organ playing or in choral conducting.

Gail was a totally committed Church musician. She loved the liturgy and her principle aim was always to lift minds and hearts to God through music and song, both in her students and in the worshiping assembly. Gail exposed her choir members to a wide range of musical repertoire, from chant and polyphony, to modern Church music of a variety of styles. A perfectionist, Gail would settle for nothing less than the best, not only in her own organ playing and in that of her students, but also in the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, which she directed for many years and which sings regularly at the Sunday 10 a.m. Mass, and in the Basilica Schola which she founded.

During the eight years that 10 a.m. Mass was televised to a national audience on the Hallmark Channel, Gail became a recognized friend by many of the 1,700,000 viewers who tuned into the Basilica every week. In addition to her Basilica duties, Gail also assisted with music at numerous University liturgical events, worked with countless couples in preparing their marriages, assisted grieving families with funerals of loved ones, and provided music for numerous Holy Cross occasions, such as final profession of vows, ordinations, jubilees, and burials of priests and brothers.

This bright, articulate and gracious woman, whose enthusiasm, dedication, professionalism, selfless energy, and humility enriched beyond measure our liturgical life in the Basilica and beyond, will be sorely missed. May she rest in peace amid the choirs of angels.