The Wellesley College Choir was founded at the start of the 1900-1901 school year by then-President of the College, Caroline Hazard.
Under the direction of Music faculty member Hamilton C. MacDougall, the Choir led weekly worship services in Houghton Chapel starting the first weekend of October, 1900. The Choir also sang for other major events that took place on campus, including commemorative services for composer Sir Arthur Sullivan and Queen Elizabeth II. President Hazard maintained her association with the Choir long after her tenure as president came to an end, notably through the contribution of a series of poems commemorating Wellesley (Flower Sunday), national (Thanksgiving), and religious (Christmas) holidays. Professor MacDougall later set her text to music. The set of poems was a staple of the Choir's repertoire for many years. Professor MacDougall would remain with the group for twenty-eight years, becoming much beloved of the young women who sang with him.
Upon MacDougall's retirement, renowned composer Randall Thompson assumed direction of the Choir from 1927-29. During this period, the Choir gave its first performance in New York City: a "Christmas Vespers" service in City Hall. Thompson also dedicated his double-choir motet "Pueri Hebraeorum" to the Choir. After Thompson left the choir, Lowell P. Beveridge, then-director of the Wellesley College Chorus (the precursor to the Glee Club), oversaw the two groups in 1929-1930, followed by Maurice C. Kirkpatrick in 1930-1931. Edward Barry Greene, who may have worked with the choir as an assistant to the conductor as early as 1924, then became the director from 1932-1940, followed by Margaret M. Winkler from 1940-1948. From 1949-1953, the director's position was somewhat in flux, filled alternately by Peter Waring, Margaret Winkler, and Charles Reeve Shackford. In 1953, William A. Herrmann, Jr. began a period of service to the Wellesley College Choir that would last for over thirty years. During Herrmann's tenure, endowments to the Choir provided for two annual concerts; the first Betty Edwards Dober '40 Memorial Concert took place in 1964, and the first Marjorie Copland Baum Concert ten years later, in 1974. The choir continued its close relationship with the Harvard Glee Club, although this period also saw the decline of the men's glee club as more and more Ivy League colleges became coeducational. Following William Herrmann's retirement, director Constance DeFotis took the podium to become the second woman to direct the Choir. Under her leadership, the Choir traveled overseas for the first time and performed several major works, including a new piece by composer William DeFotis.
Under the direction of Susan Davenny Wyner from 1994 to 1998, the Choir performed the Brahms Requiem with the Harvard Glee Club, as well as Robert Levin's new edition of the Mozart Requiem with the Virginia Glee Club and members of the Boston Baroque. The Choir traveled twice to Europe, including a tour of Italy in the Spring 1998 during which the Choir performed in St. Peter's and the American Academy of Rome, to universal acclaim. Brian Clarence Hulse took over the position in 1998, and the Choir performed the Pergolesi Stabat Mater and the Weber Mass in G, toured New York City, Washington D.C., and Florida in the Spring of 2000, and commissioned several pieces from Boston composers including Marjorie Merryman and Jonathan Bailey Holland. The Choir also had the opportunity to sing and record East, West of the Sun, a major work for women's voices by Wellesley professor Arlene Zallman. The performance is featured on a CD of Professor Zallman's music. During the tenure of director Vincent Metallo in the Choir's 100th Anniversary Season, 2000-2001, the Choir sang a concert of French spiritual music including the Poulenc Litanies de la Vierge Noire. The Choir also performed Haydn's Creation with the Glee Club of the U.S. Naval Academy.
In the Fall of 2001, the Choir welcomed its current conductor, Lisa Graham, to the podium. During her first year with the Choir, she led a performance of English folk music and a tour to Montreal, Quebec. The next year, the music of the Wellesley College Choir was featured in the motion picture Mona Lisa Smile, which was filmed on campus. National and international tours have since led them to perform in such venues as the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, La Basilique Notre-Dame Montreal, and the Mezquita in C—rdoba. Additionally, under Lisa Graham's direction the choir has commissioned important new works, most recently by William Hawley, Kirke Mechem, David Childs and Joan Szymko. Recent major works include: Requiems by Brahms, Durufle, Faure; Bach Magnificat, Cantatas 4, 140, 147, Psalm 51; Beethoven 9, Carmina Burana, Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, Brahms' Nanie, Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (II and III), and Magnificat by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Wellesley College is also a charter member of the National Collegiate Choral Organization, of which Dr. Graham is a founding member, former Vice-President, and current Treasurer.
The College Choir is devoted to the performance of choral music from the Renaissance through the present day. Endowed funds provide for joint concerts with men’s choral groups and orchestras. Consisting of approximately 50 singers, the choir presents concerts both on and off campus, and tours nationally (and in some years, internationally) during the academic year.
The Chamber Singers, founded in the fall of 1988, is an ensemble of approximately sixteen women selected from the College's finest singers. The group specializes in chamber music for women's voices with and without instruments and presents concerts in conjunction with other College music organizations throughout the academic year
Besides performing on campus, the Chamber Singers have received numerous invitations to perform in local concert series and events. The group has recently performed with the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Music Viva, and with the New England Philharmonic recently in a concert version of Berg's Wozzeck. In 2003, the Singers presented a concert and lecture in conjunction with the Wellesley Davis Museum exhibit The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz. In 2008, they performed at the NCCO conference in Cincinnati as part of a lecture recital. They are featured in the 2003 motion picture, Mona Lisa Smile.
The Choral Scholars program is one of the newest additions to Wellesley's Choral Music Program. This scholarship program was created for students with serious interest in choral music. The recipients will expect to:
- Participate in one or more of the choral ensembles
- Serve as sections leaders and/or assistant conductors
- Meet weekly as a group for coaching and research
- Take voice or conducting lesson
Who is eligible? Any student who is currently in a choral ensemble and has demonstrated an interest in choral music is eligible to apply. The following skills are taken into consideration when selecting scholars:
- Good fundamental musicianship: sight-singing skills, the ability to learn music quickly, independently, and the skills to teach to others
- Some voice training from either private studio or advanced choral ensemble
- Interest in choral literature, history, and choral methods
- Confidence in front of a group
- The ability to represent Wellesley's Choral Music Program on and off campus
How does the scholarship work? Each Choral Scholar will be awarded $250 per semester of the 2009-2010 academic year for a total of $500. The scholarship is awarded over both semesters, therefore requiring each scholar to commit to the full year
Please contact Lisa Graham at x2068 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions.