The Iroquois Mixed Choir of Kahnawake now known as the Mohawk Choir has been singing and performing in the Mohawk language since 1871. Louise Jocks, a blind musician and organist who taught the choir members to sing masses and hymns of two and three part “by heart” and managed them from 1871- 1921. Her successor Josephine Douglas, also a blind organist accompanied the choir from 1921-1927.
In 1927 Fr. Conrad Hauser of the Jesuit Order and stationed at the the Mission officially founded the choir, but it was under the direction of Fr. Alfred Bernier, Doctor in Sacred Music who succeeded Father Hauser in 1930 that the choir developed. For 20 (1930 -1950) years, Father Bernier through strenuous training developed a mixed choir of Mohawk Singers with a unique style that he applied to music of the school of Renaissance, the Franco Belgian school, notable artists Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Handel. Father M. Caron took over as Director from 1954-1961. He re-adapted many of the masses, the chants, hymns so that the accent, emphasis and sense of words corresponded to the music i.e. he re-set all the Gregorian and polyphonic hymns according to the Indian accent.
Of all languages, Iroquois is the most sonorous for singing. Long before this century, missionaries of the Society of Jesus sensed the important role which music could play in the Indian missions of Canada. Their voices are as sweet as they are rich, and their ear is so good that they never miss a half-tone in all the church melodies, many of which they know by heart.
The Choir’s public engagements began in 1939. The first official engagement made history in Montreal with the singing in the Iroquois Language at the High Mass in the Church of the Gésu.
Throughout the years the choir has engaged in numerous concerts and religious programs at major shrines, churches, and halls and has performed on radio in Canada and the United states.
The Mohawk Choir continues to sing every Sunday at mass and all special events including Kateri’s Feast day and Kateri’s Canonization Anniversary.