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Albany Chorale boasts rich and varied heritage

The Albany Chorale will hold its annual Christmas concert Dec. 16 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The Albany Chorale will hold its annual Christmas concert Dec. 16 at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. (Special photo)

The Albany Chorale will hold its annual Christmas concert Dec. 16 at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. (Special photo)

On Oct. 27, 1929, Albany’s first community choral organization gave its first concert at the Albany Theater. Founded and conducted by J.B. Edings, choir director for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the 50-voice Albany Choral Club performed for an audience of 2,000, concluding with “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.

On Dec. 16, 2013, at 7 p.m., today’s Albany Chorale will hold its annual Christmas concert at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. Though the audience will probably not number 2,000, this program will also include Handel’s “Hallelujah,” and will be conducted by Dr. Marcia Hood, who, like the chorus’ founder, directs the choir at St. Paul’s.

Those who have seen choral music prosper in Albany for almost forty years may be surprised by its precarious beginnings, as described by Patricia Yost in “The History and Development of the Albany Community Chorus.” The Depression, along with the relocation of Mr. Edings from Albany to Macon, put an end to the first community chorus after only two years.

It took another fifteen years for another chorus to emerge, this time in the form of the Albany Men’s Chorus. Though this group was popular throughout Southwest Georgia, it too disbanded after seven years. In the meantime, however, the Albany Women’s Chorus had appeared on the scene and continued for almost a decade.

In 1961, the Men’s Chorus was revived and later that year joined the Women’s Chorus to form the Albany Community Chorus. The union was not an altogether happy one, however, and the two groups soon went separate ways.

Albany’s community chorus as we know it today began in 1966, when Albany Junior College opened its doors. Dr. Ed Tarratus and Mr. Larry Dorminey, two faculty members, reassembled the Albany Community Chorus, and the group has continued without interruption since then.

In 1991, the group hired Jill Usry-Boyd as its first full-time director with an annual contract and changed its name to The Albany Chorale. In succeeding years, the Chorale performed extensively in Southwest Georgia and in 1994, toured Central Europe, arriving home just in time for the Flood of ‘94. The group also began seeking grants and holding an annual fundraiser to help cover expenses. For the past ten years, the Chorale has sponsored vocal music scholarships at Darton State College and Albany State University to promote the continuance of fine music in the Albany area.

Today’s Chorale is proud of its heritage and takes pleasure in presenting familiar favorites to its audience, as well as enhancing their musical experience with less familiar works. The upcoming Christmas concert will feature Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio and selections from Handel’s Messiah with shorter pieces by Hassler and Rachmaninoff. A string quartet and harp will provide accompaniment.

Tickets, for the concert on Dec. 16th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, may be purchased at the door or in advance from Chorale members. Prices are $15 for adults and $10 for students.

After Christmas, the Chorale will begin rehearsals for its annual fundraiser on Feb. 27, 2014, and for “Evening of Italian Opera” with the Albany Symphony in April. Rehearsals are held Mondays 7-9 p.m., in Room 115 of the McKnight Humanities Building, at Darton State College.