Musical ministry carries Bellevue man from cathedrals to Cubs game
Bellevue – With pitch pipe in hand, Bellevue resident Chris Fenoglio stepped onto Wrigley Field.
At first, he was completely calm, he said. “Then I felt the jitters, the nervous butterflies.”
Then Fenoglio began singing the national anthem, fulfilling a dream at the beginning of that September 27 game between the Chicago Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds.
“I just smiled and relaxed and thought “This is so great,” recalled Fenoglio, who was invited to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at the game.
“When I got to ‘the rockets’ red glare,’ that’s when it kicked in, he said.
Fenoglio serves as a cantor each Sunday during Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation on West End Avenue.
While in college, he sang with the University of Notre Dame Glee Club, traveling throughout the country and Europe. He studied under David Clark Isele, a well-known composer of sacred music.
During his time at Notre Dame, Fenoglio sang in a High Latin Mass at Cologne Cathedral in Germany and in a private Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He also sang in a private concert in Rome.
For several years before joining the choir at the Cathedral, Fenoglio sang in the choir at St. Henry Church near Bellevue.
“I’ve been singing in choirs pretty much my whole life,” he said.
“I remember singing in a boys’ choir at St. Bridget’s grade school in Loves Park, Illinois.”
After spending a semester at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary near Chicago, Fenoglio decided against joining the priesthood because he wanted to start a family. But he wanted to continue to be involved with the church, and singing was a way to do that.
“My vocation is using my voice in the church,” he said. “I see it as a ministry.
“If my singing can help people experience the love of God in their lives, then that’s what’s important to me.”
A natural fit
But Fenoglio’s passion also flows outside the church and into the secular world.
On several occasions, Fenoglio has sung the national anthem at Nashville Sounds games, Bellevue Little League games and corporate events for HCA where he works.
Recalling the emotion he felt when he sang a post 9/11 Mass at the Cathedral. “It’s those same patriotic feelings that led me to want to sing the national anthem at ball games,” he said.
“I felt that could be my song outside of church. And I love baseball, so it seemed a natural fit,” said Fenoglio, who grew up in Illinois and for years has been a Chicago Cubs fan.
It was his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at a Father Ryan High School basketball game that led to the performance at Wrigley Field.
Announcing the game that night was Chuck Meriwether, a major league umpire and parent of a Father Ryan student.
Fenoglio’s children Kristin, Connor and Tommy attend Father Ryan.
Meriwether was so impressed with Fenoglio’s voice, he recommended he submit an audition tape to the Cubs.
But Meriwether doesn’t take credit. “He’s the one with the voice,” he said.
Meriwether said he has heard many talented entertainers sing the anthem. “I’ve heard the national anthem 1,000 times,” he said. But he said Fenoglio’s version is one of the best. “We’re very proud of him.”
During the visit back to his home state, Fenoglio said, the occasion became a family reunion of sorts. Altogether, he had 45 friends and family members there for support. His brother Rick even came from England to hear him sing.
While they were on the plane to Chicago, Fenoglio said his wife, Linda, told the flight attendant the reason for their trip. He said the attendant surprised him by calling to the front of the plane for a sneak preview.
Fenoglio said he just thought to himself, “If I can sing for 39,000 at Wrigley Field, I can sing for 125 in this plane.”
Fenoglio said the trip continued to have its overwhelming moments, not just before and during the performance, but afterwards. Special guests at the game included the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“And the funniest thing, a friend of mine, Pete Fisher, was at the game,” he said. Fisher, whom Fenoglio knows from attending St. Henry Church, is the general manager of the Grand Ole Opry.
Even the time Fenoglio spent warming up was an emotional experience, he said, adding that he got to see Cubs memorabilia lining the walls of the conference room where he practiced.
During the performance, Fenoglio said he “fed off of the energy of the crowd. Even through the whole game, strangers came up to me and said, ‘Good job.'”
After the performance, Fenoglio said he “pointed to heaven to remember my grandfather Bill Fenoglio, for whom I’m named.” My grandfather was a big Cubs fan,” he said
Then, Fenoglio added, he gave a “high five” to his dad Dick and sister Catherine.
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