Whenever the Holiday Season rolls around, I reflect upon my musical career. It was not a particularly long career. In fact it pretty well ended when I left eighth grade. Some would argue that it should have ended sooner.
My short career involved being a member of the boy’s choir at St. Mary’s Academy. The choir was for boys from sixth grade through eighth grade. We were Devils Lake’s answer to that boy’s choir that had the Vienna sausage as a sponsor only we never had a sponsor. Boys could either join the choir or sit in a classroom and study with the girls during choir practice. That was a simple choice to make. As a result, all the boys tried out for the choir. Sister Mary Concepta, our director and sixth grade teacher, must have realized how good we were because every boy got past the tryout.
After tryouts we were each assigned a role in the choir. I was an alto. I would explain what an alto is but fact of the matter is I have no idea. It had something to do with where you stood when the choir lined up. I had the back row alto part.
Practice really swung into gear in early November. We were preparing for performing at the Christmas Midnight Mass at St Josephs Church. We would perform for an hour before the service started to a standing room only crowd. We wore red cassocks with a white top and red bowtie. I figured if we were not good at least we looked like a boy’s choir. David got to do a solo. He was not an alto but he sure could sing Oh Holy Night.
Being in the choir meant I could attend the midnight service for the first time and I did not have to babysit for my younger sister. That was like a buy one get one free bargain.
As practice got more serious, Sister Concepta took me aside to give me a new role. She explained the subclass of the alto role. There were your loud altos and your soft altos. She felt it was important to the good of the choir that I be a soft alto. Not knowing a lot about music, I had to ask what that meant. She said it meant I would be singing my alto part softly. I told her I thought there was already a problem hearing me from the back row and singing softly could compound the problem. She said my soft alto role was very important to the good of the choir. As a team player I proudly accepted my new role.
We performed on Christmas Eve and the next morning and then again on Easter. After Easter in my last year, my formal music career came to an end. I always hoped that in the years that followed a new soft alto would emerge.
Page 2 of 2 - Most of my singing since took place in the shower. After marriage, while I sang in the shower, my caring wife came running to see if I was scalded. I have to believe my family has the same ability to judge musical talent as Sister Concepta. To this day, be it singing Happy Birthday or Christmas carols, I am assigned my former role as the family soft alto.
Robert Pfleiger was born at Mercy Hospital 4/10/1943. He spent his first 14 years in Devils Lake. Pfleiger attended St Mary's Academy through eight grade. His father, Casper Pfleiger, worked for Fairmont Foods and was transferred to Minneapolis in the summer of 1957. He attended high school and college in Minneapolis. After the University of Minnesota Pfleiger was married to his wife Mary and worked for Honeywell. He was transferred to Nashville, TN in 1967. In 1980 he left Honeywell and started Ener-Tech Industries which he has since sold. Now, he is semi retired but still works part time at Ener-Tech. The Pfleigers raised four daughters, have five grandchildren and like to travel when possible.