A 16-year old high school singer stands next to an octogenarian, open-mouthed and inspired while rehearsing Verdi’s Requiem. A college music major performs between an avocational pianist and a lawyer. A Queens College math professor sings in the same choir with some of his students and three generations of a family sing in different sections of the ensemble. These are just a few snapshots of the membership of the Queens College Choral Society. As we approach our May 21 performance of Verdi’s Requiem to conclude our 75th anniversary season, we celebrate choral excellence, the diversity of our singers, the longevity of the group and the joy of choral music.
The Queens College Choral Society was founded in 1941 and the first concert, featuring Handel’s Messiah in a high school auditorium, was just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Over the past 75 years the group has been dedicated to performing the most significant works in the choral-orchestral repertoire, including recent performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Britten’s War Requiem. In addition, QCCS has had the delight of premiering several new works, often by Queens College faculty. Since its inception the ensemble has had only five Music Directors: John Castellini, founder (1941-1969); Carl Eberl (1970-1978); Lawrence Eisman (1978-2001); Harold Rosenbaum (2001-2002); and James John (2002-present).
Interesting details from the group’s history include the American premiere of Vivaldi’s Gloria RV 589 in May 1949, and in 1966, John Castellini received an award from the Handel Association of America for twenty-five consecutive years of Messiah performances. In 2012 the group premiered 1001 Voices: A Symphony for a New America by Frank London (text by Judith Sloan), with the Queens Symphony. In December 2016, QCCS will premiere a new oratorio by Queens College faculty member David Schober as part of the College’s Year of Korea.
From Mendelssohn’s Elijah to Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, QCCS brings an exceptionally wide variety of choral masterworks to a community of singers that represents the rich cultural tapestry of Queens, the most diverse county in the country. Thank you to all current and former members, and congratulations to QCCS and Music Director James John for continuing to build on 75 years of excellent music making.
Consider joining us for our upcoming performance of Verdi’s Requiem on May 21
at the Kupferberg Center for the Performing Arts. Visit
kupferbergcenter.org/events/qccs-75th-annual-spring-concert-verdis-requiem/#.VxgiUiMrI6U for details. Also consider singing with us for our 76th annual concert season, which will feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Haydn’s Creation and a world premiere by David Schober. QCCS welcomes singers from all boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island, and is open to singers of all ages and from all walks of life.
Emily John is on the Advisory Board of the Queens College Choral Society and is the wife of director James John.