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The Worcester Chorus: Musical Excellence in Mechanics Hall

By Jim Caton

With a history reaching back over 150 years and a world-class reputation, the Worcester Chorus is truly a local gem. Repertoire includes "the world's finest choral masterpieces," says chorus member Kim Longe, "as well as works by contemporary composers and arrangements of American folk songs and classics from the musical theater." A further source of pride? The one-hundred voice chorus draws entirely upon local talent, making it a living representation of the early American value placed on community involvement in arts and education. Furthering that ideal is the Chorus' commitment to the area's youth in the form of music scholarships, student internships, and music-based outreach programs.

The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester, Inc.

The Worcester Chorus was founded, together with the Worcester Music Festival, in 1858. It performs three to four concerts each year as part of Music Worcester, Inc.'s varied season of events, including Handel's Messiah in December. Chorus and Festival were begun in order to celebrate the completion of Worcester's newly completed Mechanics Hall, the beauty and acoustics of which are legendary. Fully restored in the late 1970's, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Located forty minutes from both Boston and Providence, Mechanics Hall resides in the geographical and historical heart of New England and is a testament to the city's industrial-age history and culture. Constructed to facilitate the Worcester Mechanics Association's mission of providing education and cultural activities for local workingmen, the Hall hosted lectures by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain, and Susan B. Anthony in its early years. In recent years, the Hall has seen talent on the order of Yo Yo Ma, The Chieftains, the Berlin Philharmonic and Chic Corea. It is also the home venue of the Worcester Chorus.

The Chorus's recent performance of J.S. Bach's St. John Passion in Mechanics Hall garnered rich praise. As reviewed in the Worcester Telegram, the Chorus, under the direction of conductor Dr. Christopher Shepard, gave a "stunning" performance. Joyce Tamer writes, "Their commitment to this performance was evident from their first entrance to the last chorale" and that "the entire piece was sung with textural clarity, secure rhythm and a lush and rich tone. The audience listened attentively and quietly for more than two hours, a testament to the quality of the presentation."

The Worcester Chorus maintains a reputation for excellence far beyond New England. It has "performed with a variety of symphony orchestras, including appearances with the Prague Symphony in Carnegie Hall, the American Symphony in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Boston, Baltimore, Detroit, Hartford and Springfield." The Chorus has toured internationally as well, "performing in the Oaxaca Festival in Mexico, the Strathclyde Festival in The British Isles, the Salzburg Festival in Austria, and in concerts and festivals in Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Russia and Scandinavia."

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An English teacher for twenty-five years, first at a college near Buffalo and then at...

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