The Abraham Lincoln - A Wyndham Historic Hotel
Friday, January 25, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. and
Sunday, January 27 2008 at 3:00 p.m.
Founded in 1875, the Reading Choral Society is one of America’s oldest musical ensembles, and from its earliest days has pursued performances characterized by vocal excellence and musical distinction. Under its first music director, German-trained Edward A. Berg, the Society flourished, in part from Berg’s personal connections to the musical leaders of the day, particularly his friendship with Theodore Thomas, the most dynamic and foresighted orchestral conductor of the nineteenth century. Berg’s enlightened direction and his mission—to perform great choral masterworks, without ignoring contemporary composers—has guided the Society since its founding. Berg and his successors performed the major choral/orchestral repertory (Messiah, The Creation, and Elijah were particularly popular), often accompanied by the New York Philharmonic Club, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and similar groups. The Society, like its many sister choruses across the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, brought musical stars and quality repertory to the Reading community, long before orchestras usurped that role in the public’s perception. In its first half-century, the Society performed with such vocal stars such as baritone Nelson Eddy, and Metropolitan opera regulars Margaret Harshaw, William Hargrave, Julius Huehn, Wellington Ezekiel, and many others.
Under its current music director, Peter Hopkins (the eleventh person
to hold this position), the Reading Choral Society continues to evolve and change. Its educational programs now encompass regular performances with invited local high school and college choirs and continuing collaborations with the Berks Classical Children’s Chorus. In addition, the RCS sponsors a Young Composers Project and, more recently, the first Young Artists Competition, both designed to give college and university music students early professional experience. While continuing the tradition of programming choral masterworks, the Society has expanded its repertory to include the more frequent performance and commissioning of new music and the exploration of more “popular” literature, like folksong, spirituals, and musical theatre.
The Reading Choral Society is comprised now, as it has always been, of dedicated amateur singers from all walks of life, between the ages of 20 and 80. Determined to present the highest calibre musical performances possible, the 75-voice Society rehearses weekly in a professional atmosphere, fulfilling the lives of its members by immersing them in great music, and through RCS performances enriching and enlivening the musical life of the greater Reading community.