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A Venture in Community Singing with the Greater New Haven Community Chorus

By Elisha Neubauer

The Greater New Haven Community Chorus has a rich history, filled with good intentions and community involvement.

In 1963, Ronald D. Kontechy partnered with a local radio station, WELI, as a venture in community singing. A new concept, the WELI Community Chorus (the original name of the Greater New Haven Community Chorus) began performing across multiple venues throughout the area. In 1971, the chorus began operating independently from its founding station, incorporating as a non-profit in five years later.

Since its founding, the chorus has been asked to perform at many large community events. They performed at the National Bicentennial Celebration in Philadelphia as the Connecticut state representatives, for example. They were selected to perform on the New Haven Green as a participant in the Summer Festivals, as well as the 75th Anniversary of the Hospital of St. Raphael, and in the 350th Anniversary Concert of New Haven and the Center Church, in the Amistad Celebration.

"Greater New Haven Community Chorus strives to actively engage with the community," says Katherine McManus, GNHCC's Board President. "In recent years, the chorus has offered a variety of workshops open to the public." Among them are several series of workshops featuring: gospel singing, multi-cultural influences on choral singing, rhythm, breathing techniques, and choral basics.

The chorus also offers free concerts for the community's undeserved population as well as several benefit concerts for awareness and charity, such as World AIDS Day in 2012. "Each year, chorus members visit at least one area retirement home to sing holiday carols for the residents," explains McManus. "In addition, GNHCC members are generous in supporting the New Haven Police Department's annual coat drive, New Haven Reads and IRIS."

Members of the GNHCC have even traveled across Europe performing. In 2006, they sung in Mozart Festivals in Prague, Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria; while in 2011, they visited Prague and Vienna, as well as Dresden and Berlin, Germany as part of a gala choral festival concert under the direction of Z. Randall Stroope. They have also partnered with other choral companies, such as Connecticut's Vallis Musicae of Farmington, Connecticut in 2010. During that partnership, they traveled to Brazil, Spain, and Argentina.

"During the 2013-2014 season, Greater New Haven Community Chorus celebrated its 50th Anniversary season with several specially commissioned choral works," states McManus, "including a major five-movement work by nationally-acclaimed choral composer Jake Runestad; performing a retrospective concert followed by a gala reception; and by compiling and publishing a commemorative 50th Anniversary Cookbook."

For those looking to learn more about this community chorus, McManus tells us that they have a very active online presence. GNHCC provides the opportunity for inexperienced adult singers to join without audition, to learn to sing major choral works, and to do so with minimal out-of-pocket expense.

"Also, supporters can sign up for informative Constant Contact newsletters by texting 22828, keyword GNHCC," she says.

Photos courtesy: Yawei Li and Michael Brennan.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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