From Vienna to Paris to the White House and back home to Ridgewood, the New Jersey Choral Society has traveled the world performing for multitudes of music lovers. Set to open their 43rd season, the group is celebrating both American composers and artists as well as New Jersey-grown performers in three concert series kicking off this month.
Founded in 1980 by conductor, music administrator and educator John Peter Holly, who served as its musical director until 1988, the New Jersey Choral Society has become a prominent and celebrated ensemble of gifted singers in northern New Jersey. Based in Ridgewood, NJCS performs three concert series annually and draws its 70 plus auditioned members from the tri-state area. With a repertoire ranging from classical to pops, traditional to contemporary they are gearing up their season with a Coming Home theme. “We are featuring music from American composers and artists this year. It’s a change for us but definitely exciting,” says Ethan Galvin, NJCS director of marketing, its historian as well as a tenor in the group since 2000.
The NJCS is led by Artistic Director and Conductor Dr. Lauren Fowler-Calisto, an associate professor and Director of Choral Activities at William Paterson University. The chorus is accompanied by pianist Linda Sweetman-Waters, who has performed at Carnegie Hall, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Lincoln Center. Along with members who have been in the chorus for decades, younger singers have joined as well. “We have a widely diverse array of people,” says Galvin. “From her role as a professor at William Paterson, Dr. Fowler-Calisto has drawn young people and alumni which has been a wonderful and refreshing way to add their enthusiasm to the group.”
A smaller ensemble from NJCS, the Chanteurs, consists of about 15 members who bring their music into the community, performing at local libraries, hospitals, senior living centers and non-profit events. “We perform at about 8 different venues a year,” says Galvin. “It’s both a way to bring the joy of music to those who maybe can’t get to one of our concerts and to show the community who we are.”
In 1998 about 30 members of the group performed in the East Room at the White House as part of their holiday festivities. Traveling internationally to perform in music festivals has been a tradition for the choral group as well, including London, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and Berlin. “I’ve been on three trips with them,” says Galvin. “It’s always an unforgettable experience and a great chance to sample the culture and the food as well as meet new people.”
Home for the Holidays is the theme this month celebrating the season with festive classics such as There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays, Let it Snow, White Christmas and a medley of favorite songs from the movie Home Alone.
For the March Pops concert, Greetings from the Garden State will feature hits from New Jersey artists Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Donald Fagen and Steely Dan and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons among others. “It will be fun,” says Galvin. “The songs have been arranged for soprano, alto, bass and tenor singers and we will have solo artists as well.”
In June their Masterwork Gloryland concert will include a full orchestra and highlight American songs from the tradition of Spirituals, Gospel and Sacred Harp. Robert Shaw’s arrangement of A City Called Heaven as well as Old Time Religion will feature solos, brass quintet and timpani. The American Gospel tradition will be highlighted with Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass and He Never Failed Me Yet with a full gospel rhythm section.
The concerts, performed at both Our Lady of the Valley Church in Wayne and West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, are made possible with funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information on the New Jersey Choral Society and for ticket and subscription information go to www.NJCS.org.
Set to open their 43rd season, the group is celebrating both American composers and artists as well as New Jersey-grown performers in three concert series kicking off this month.