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August 23, 2019

8/8/2019 4:32:00 PM
Music: in the key of community

Last Sunday Trinity Church in Lindstrom was filled with people, and why is that news you ask?  This was no regular congregation of Lutherans. The church was where more than 200 people were entertained by gifted performers,  from one extended family.

The musical afternoon was inspired by Joe Chouinard, the eldest of six Chouinard children, who died of pancreatic cancer in August 2018.  Joe graduated from Chisago Lakes Area High School in 1979 Valedictorian.

He earned a BS in music from St. John’s University and was a professional musician who shared his talents with his church St Joan of Arc in Minneapolis.

Chouinard family members pooled their considerable musical talents to both honor Joe’s life last Sunday  and boost awareness of an organization, Pan CAN, which provides support for research, patient services and education about pancreatic cancer.  

Joe’s dad, John Chouinard said Trinity is a “lovely space” and conducive to musical performances. John has sung there with the local chorale group Unexpected Company and he said the church officials were supportive of the idea.

Mike Savold taught Chouinard kids at Chisago Lakes.  He’s retired and he participated in the event last Sunday too.  There were people in the audience who have had a role in bringing music into not just Joe’s life but into this local community and they were there as well.

Joan Chouinard, Joe’s mother, said all her kids were raised with the expectation that “music is a performing art.”  You were going to sing around the family piano at Christmas at the very least.  She said a public family musical program “...has been incubating for a long time.”

John added he and Joan were told often that the family ought to do a concert.

The idea of honoring Joe and raising funds for pancreatic cancer programs and patient services was the ignition last spring that sparked  planning for last Sunday’s concert.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (Pan CAN)was formed in 1999.  

Coordinator for the Minnesota affiliate, Mary Jo Mahowald, told the audience that for a variety of reasons, pancreatic cancer diagnosis frequently comes quite late in the cancer’s progression.  She urged everyone with a concern or a diagnosis to get in contact with the hotline number 1-877-435-8650 if you have any questions or need help dealing with treatment, want to learn about trial treatments or want help with supporting a loved one.

The number is answered from  7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Fridays.

Pan CAN relies on volunteers.  This effort to honor  Joe was among the most successful in the Twin Cities, John remarked.  People were pledging amounts weeks before the August 4 performance.

Coordinator Mahowald said it’s been shown-- when research funding increases, survival rates increase.    So far pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly of cancers, and Mahowald, whose sister died of this form of cancer,  said many survive a year or less.   It is number three in fatalities now and expected to soon become the number two contributor to deaths.

Joe died 19 months after diagnosis.

Performance pieces in the Trinity concert included an 11-year-old nephew who played Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” on the grand piano and an intricate saxophone-piano tour de force that nobody wanted to end.

Joe’s mom, Joan, however, stole the show.

Her highly animated recitation  of a rhyming ditty mocking outrageous church ladies’ recipes was the perfect touch.

John explained how heartwarming it was to see the family come together in tribute to their brother, and even more so how the Chouinard kids found spouses who possess the gift of music-- and Chouinard grandkids are now performing or teaching and the legacy lives on.  

“It was a great day,” said John.

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