Singing God’s praises is his mantra

By Steve Wideman | For The Compass | January 23, 2013

“I wanted to hear a lot more balance as far as what is coming through the flute mics, the choir mics, the piano mics and all that stuff that I have not been privy to in the past,” said Vine, whose hearing aid allowed him, for the first time, to tap into a recently installed wire loop system allowing those with hearing aids to more clearly hear all parts of the Mass.


Jim Vine (Steve Wideman | For The Compass)


To most people attending weekly Masses at St. Margaret Mary, Vine’s singing voice, sometimes bass, sometimes tenor and sometimes baritone, is a familiar enhancement to the liturgy.

Few know he’s used a hearing aid the last two years.

Vine was born in Tennessee in 1945. His family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1946.

Vine has no doubt his love for singing is rooted in his parents.

“My father, Richard, sang in the New York City Opera for several years when he lived on the East Coast. We were fortunate to live in Italy for a year while he studied at La Scala Theater Academy in Milan, where he studied vocal performance and opera. So there weren’t too many choices where I was going as a youth,” Vine said.

Vine’s mother, Eleanor, was a music major in college and played the piano.

Vine, who earned college degrees from the University of Hawaii and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, began his musical career in Hawaii playing trumpets in bands for several notable recording artists.

“When I lived in Hawaii we had a lot of performers coming through on their way to Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to play for Lou Rawls, Wayne Newton and Johnnie Ray. I played guitar for Bette Midler for two years,” Vine said.

Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Jim Vine

Parish: St. Margaret Mary, Neenah


Words to live by: “Do the best job you can do at what you do.”

Vine joined a show band in Waikiki for several years before he met his wife, Susan, and got married.

Vine looks to those years in the show band as a time his hearing was damaged to the point he obtained a hearing aid two years ago.

“When I played in that show band for those years I played right in front of a bass guitar amp on one side and a Hammond B-3 organ on the other side. That went on from 9:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. for six nights a week for two years. We would finish. I’d put my watch up to my ear and couldn’t hear it ticking,” Vine said. “Two years ago my wife suggested that instead of her always talking and me saying ‘What?’ that I should go get a hearing aid.”

Vine moved from Hawaii to Neenah in 1970, when the couple were expecting their first child, and became choir director at Neenah High School. “We moved to Wisconsin to enjoy a more traditional kind of life,” Vine said. “I also looked forward to becoming a choir director. My goal was to expose the students to as much good musical literature and to perform it as best they could. You want to do everything you do the best you can.”

Vine said he simply enjoyed being part of the musical experience and seeing growth in his students’ love of and participation in music, an experience he brings as a member of the St. Margaret Mary choir.

The Vine family initially moved to Neenah’s west side, where they attended St. Gabriel Parish, but did not participate in the choir. In 1991, when his children were grown, Vine and his wife moved to the east side and began attending St. Margaret Mary, where parents of his former choir students suggested he join the church choir.

Vine said he enjoys singing during Mass.

“When I sing, I am trying to send a message,” he said. “I am part of the service singing responsorials, the Alleluia, chants and other songs that are part of the Mass. I hope the people are going to get out of the choir singing what they need. It may not be the same thing for 10 different people.”

Vine said he particularly enjoys when those attending Mass join the choir in singing.

“We’re song leaders. We don’t just want to be performers. We enjoy the participation of the congregation,” Vine said.

Although he sings in up to three Masses during a weekend, the enjoyment of singing doesn’t really make it feel like an undue commitment of time.

In this Year of Faith, Vine said he feels he is sharing the message of God through his singing.

“I want to share that message with the people. That’s my focus,” Vine said. “And the better you do something, the better the message is going to come across. If you use the words and music appropriately the better the people will listen and the messages come across clearer.”

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