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William Chandler Celebrates 50 Years As Music Director

Golden Anniversary

Bill Chandler, far right, is pictured with members of the world-renowned Harmonic Brass from Eunich, Germany, before a performance in 2009. Also pictured are Chandler’s daughter, Anne Dolce, center, and Donna Gatz, second from right. Submitted photo

Fifty years is a big milestone to reach in any area of a person’s life. For the music director at Holy Apostles Parish, Bill Chandler, it is a milestone that he has recently reached there.

Chandler originally came to Jamestown after leaving the church he was substitute directing at in New York City. He also moved to take on an engineering job at Cummins, where he would eventually become the director of materials and work for 25 years.

“I was looking around for a Catholic church at the time, and was eventually contacted by St. Peter and Paul, who hired me to be the music director,” Chandler said.

The church was originally known as Ss. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church before its merger with St. John to become Holy Apostles Parish, according to Chandler. Chandler’s 50-year career there began in 1971, but his music career started a long time before.

“I actually started as a choir member in New York City when I was 10 years old,” Chandler said. “I joined a concert boy’s and men’s chorus there. I didn’t actually have any professional schooling, but I guess you could say my music schooling was a schooling by association.”

William Chandler is pictured conducting the Holy Apostles Parish choir. Submitted photo

Chandler is also a member of the Berkshire Choral International or the BCI chorus which plays all across the globe.

“I was in the BCI for 12 years, until we unfortunately were stopped by the pandemic,” Chandler said. “But we will start up again.”

Chandler’s music career also includes being a Paulist Chorister for three years, being the substitute music director at his first church in New York City, being the dean of the American Guild of Organists at one time and singing at Chautauqua Institution.

Chandler’s daughter, Anne Dolce, who is also currently the church’s handbell choir director and assistant director of music ministries, recalled first coming to what was then Ss. Peter and Paul at seven years old, because her father “wanted to see what the church was like.”

“He was the choir director ever since,” Dolce said. “My father is very passionate about music and the choir, and started singing in choirs in New York City since he was very young. Singing and directing became his life. It’s his passion and what he truly loves to do.”

It was at Holy Apostles Parish where Tony Dolce would first meet Chandler, who would eventually become his father-in-law after he married Anne.

“I’ve actually been in the choir longer than I’ve been married,” Tony said. “I’ve had a long relationship with my father-in-law, first in the choir for 42 years and then with him as my father-in-law for 25 years.”

Tony described Chandler as having a great knowledge of music and the liturgy of the Catholic Church, along with the events and traditions that come with that.

“I’ve learned a lot about Catholic music from him,” Tony said.

Chandler’s first pastor at the church, Father Don Hughes, was an army chaplain who was called away to help parishioners work with the Attica Federal Prison during the Attica Problem of 1971.

“Before that though, he officially made my title Director of Music Ministries,” Chandler said.

Holy Apostles’ current pastor, Father Dennis Mende, worked with Chandler since — for about 22 years.

“(Chandler) really has an impressive knowledge for music and the choir,” Mende said. “He also has a very deep knowledge of church music, and he is always working to study and update himself in that area.”

The organist for Holy Apostles Parish, Donna Gatz, has worked there with Chandler for 30 years, and described the work as both inspiring and challenging.

“I’ve been friends with (Chandler) and his wife ever since we met 29 years ago,” Gatz said. “I wasn’t actually looking for a job, he came to me. And I’ve been working there ever since. It has been inspiring to watch him prepare top notch programs and keep the choir functioning, especially through COVID.”

According to Chandler, the choir has had up to 70 members at one time, but as of right now, pre-pandemic, there were 36. The work isn’t all Chandler’s, by the way, as his wife, Sue has helped with behind-the-scenes work — organizing the music, making sure the choir robes are ready for the choir and during the pandemic helping space choir members to maintain social distance.

“We have worked very hard to keep the choir going during the pandemic,” Chandler said. “We have been doing it safely with masks and social distancing, and have so far made it through without any health problems. The choir members at Holy Apostles really are great people and we have all been very watchful to stay healthy.”

Chandler added that the congregation likes the choir to continue.

“I actually think we get more compliments now than we did before the pandemic,” Chandler joked.

Chandler is very appreciative of all of his choir members, along with Gatz, who has a masters in the pipe organ.

“I can’t actually play that instrument,” Chandler said.

Chandler added that he has had the opportunity to work with “some of the finest people in the world” both in New York City and at Holy Apostles, and that in some ways it does not seem like it is possible for him to have reached 50 years.

“In some ways that’s a long time, but it also goes by very rapidly,” Chandler said.“I never thought I would make it to 50 years.”

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