ABOUT OUR CHORUSES

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Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

 

HISTORY

Today’s Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was first formed in 1952 at the request of Music Director George Szell, and starts its 69th season in the fall of 2020. As early as the Orchestra’s third season, in 1920-21, founding manager Adella Prentiss Hughes issued an invitation for Clevelanders to join a Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. It lasted less than a year, with subsequent Orchestra performances of choral works using choruses from local churches and colleges. Soon after Severance Hall opened in 1931, a second Cleveland Orchestra choral ensemble was established. Known as the Cleveland Philharmonic Chorus, it flourished for nearly a decade and provided the choral forces for the many staged operas presented under Music Director Artur Rodzinski’s direction.

 

Finally, the Orchestra’s fourth music director, George Szell (1946-70), initiated the creation of a permanent chorus to be affiliated with the Orchestra and made up of local singers admitted by audition. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus began performing in 1952 and quickly proved its artistic worth. In 1956, Szell invited the young and nationally prominent choral conductor Robert Shaw to join the Orchestra’s conducting staff as associate conductor and chorus conductor, further solidifying the Chorus’s reputation for quality. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has maintained its position as a leading American orchestra chorus under the subsequent leadership of choral directors Clayton H. Krehbiel (1967-69), Margaret Hillis (1969-71), Robert Page (1971-89), Gareth Morrell (1989-98), Robert Porco (1998-2017), and Lisa Wong (2017 - present).

Across seven decades, chosen through audition, nearly 3,000 singers from across Northeast Ohio have joined the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to serve as hard-working, focused, song-filled volunteer choristers.  They have rehearsed, prepared, and performed over 150 major choral-orchestral works and operas, as well as singing hundreds of shorter, seasonal, popular, and well-loved favorites — all the while mastering dozens of languages and different musical styles. 

 

The group has been featured on over 1,300 concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra since 1952, including 26 appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, along with tour performances in Miami, Puerto Rico, and across Europe.  The Chorus has also toured on its own, either a capella or with other ensembles, to the Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the Chautauqua Institution in New York; and to venues in England, Wales, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany. They have been heard on hundreds of radio broadcasts, appeared in at least a dozen television programs, and participated in more than 30 commercial recordings with The Cleveland Orch­estra — including 7 Grammy Award nominations and 4 Grammy Awards.  They have been featured on 4 private-label box sets created by The Cleveland Orchestra to mark important celebrations, including a special album honoring legendary chorus director Robert Shaw, which featured a range of performances by the Chorus and Orchestra from his years at the helm.

 

In addition, more recently, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has created eleven albums with The Cleveland Orchestra, filled with joyous and heart-warming Christmas music, and used the power of that music as fund-raising premiums in their many and successful efforts to help defray the cost of touring and operating a chorus. 

TODAY

The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is one of the few professionally trained, all-volunteer choruses sponsored by a major American orchestra. Current Chorus members hail from nearly 50 northeast Ohio (and one Pennsylvania) communities. They travel to weekly rehearsals from as far away as Wooster and Dublin, Ohio, and McDonald, PA.Together, the group’s 130 members volunteer more than 30,000 hours annually, through rehearsals and performances. They also raise money for their tours through a variety of projects and events. Current members have service tenures ranging from 6 months to 50 years, with a combined 1,261 years of service to the ensemble. 25 of them were in their first year for the 2019-2020 season.

COC members have many varied occupations, from Car Wash Manager to Senior Vice President. Here are some other represented occupations: 17 in healthcare (including a pediatrician, podiatrist, 3 clinical psychologists, 4 music therapists), 12 students, 22 work in education (as professors, advisors, and 8 as music teachers), 5 engineers, 5 attorneys, 3 architects, 2 writers, a florist, a veterinarian, and a yoga teacher. Despite their varied current occupations, all members have prior musical training,  and many have music degrees.

On March 5, 2020, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was awarded The Cleveland Orchestra’s Distinguished Service Award. The annual award was established in 1996 by the Orchestra’s Board of Trustees, to recognize ongoing and exceptional commitment and service to the Orchestra. The Chorus was recognized first as individuals, for their extraordinary commitment and dedication as volunteers, and second, for the collective and polished artistry they achieve each season as a group.

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BLOSSOM FESTIVAL CHORUS

The Cleveland Orchestra opened Blossom Music Center in 1968 to serve as the orchestra’s summer home.  A large new volunteer chorus was assembled for the inaugural concert and included many members of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and members of other Northeast Ohio choral groups.  The Blossom Festival Chorus has since established itself as a permanent and beloved annual part of the Blossom Festival and has sung well over 100 concerts since its 1968 debut.

The Blossom Festival Chorus joins the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus at Severance Hall every December for Christmas concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra. They have also performed at Chautauqua and on Cleveland's Public Square for the annual Fourth of July concerts.

ABOUT OUR DIRECTORS

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Lisa Wong

Director of Choruses

Lisa Wong was appointed Director of Choruses for The Cleveland Orchestra in May 2018, after serving as Acting Director throughout the 2017-18 season.  She joined the choral staff of The Cleveland Orchestra as assistant director of choruses at the start of the 2010-11 season, assisting in preparing the Cleveland Orch­estra Chorus and Blossom Festival Chorus for performances each year.  In 2012, she took on added responsibilities as director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus. 

In addition to her duties at Severance Hall, she is a faculty member at the College of Wooster, where she conducts the Wooster Chorus and the Wooster Singers and teaches courses in conducting and music education.  Previous academic posts include positions in public and private schools in New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.  Prior to her appointment at the College of Wooster, Ms. Wong served as an associate instructor in the choral department of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.  In addition, she directed the Chamber Choir of the Indiana University Children’s Choir, where her duties included preparing the choir for performances of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and several IU Opera Theater productions.  She also led the group in performance at the Indiana Music Educators Association Conference.

Active as a clinician, guest conductor, and adjudicator, she serves as a music panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Recent accolades have included work at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, as a part of Tunaweza Kimuziki, and as a conductor for “Conducting 21C: Musical Leadership for a New Century” in Stockholm, Sweden.  Ms. Wong holds a bachelor of science degree in music education from West Chester University, as well as master of music and doctor of music degrees in choral conducting from Indiana University.

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Daniel Singer

Assistant Director of Choruses

Daniel Singer joined the choral conducting staff of the Cleveland Orchestra in 2012 as assistant director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus. He was promoted to assistant director of choruses and Director of the Youth Chorus with the start of the 2018-19 season.

Since 2011, Mr. Singer has served as director of music at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where he conducts orchestra and chorus. Mr. Singer is also active as a guest conductor and clinician, and has worked with honor choirs and top student ensembles in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and North Carolina. Mr. Singer performs professionally with Quire Cleveland and has sung as baritone soloist with ensembles throughout the region, including the Wooster Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Choral Arts Cleveland, and the Suburban Symphony of Cleveland. He is also an arranger and composer, having written for choral and instrumental groups throughout the United States.

Prior to coming to Ohio, Mr. Singer worked as a performer, music director, and teacher in the Chicago area. He taught high school choral music in the cities of Lincolnshire and Cary and participated in music engagement in the Chicago Public Schools. Mr. Singer holds degrees in music education and conducting from Northwestern University and Michigan State University.

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© 2020

Cleveland Orchestra Chorus

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CONTACT US

Chorus Office 

Severance Hall

11001 Euclid Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44106

 

E-mail: chorus@clevelandorchestra.com

 

Cleveland Orchestra Chorus photography 

© by Roger Mastroianni

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