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CGA rehearses at
St. Luke's Presbyterian Church
1978 Mt. Vernon Rd.
Dunwoody, GA  30338

 



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Choral Guild of Atlanta:
A Distinguished History

For many years, the Choral Guild of Atlanta has given the city of Atlanta, the surrounding metropolitan counties, and cities in Europe and Australia a diversity of exemplary choral music.  Originally organized by the Atlanta Music Club in 1939, the amateur chorus gained a position of importance in the musical life of metropolitan Atlanta, and today is one of the oldest and most widely recognized independent choral groups in the United States.

Since the time of its organization, the Choral Guild has been a “community chorus” with membership available to all who are interested and able to qualify.  It is a self-sustaining organization not associated with any school, college or church.  Its members are professional men and women, office workers, housewives, choir directors. . .people from all walks of life, and they have a great pride in the Guild and in the fine contribution it has made to music.

Under the able leadership of its founder, Haskell Boyter, the Music Club Chorus, as it was first known, grew rapidly.  In April 1941, Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Saint Paul, was performed.  On the weekend of December 7, two performances of The Swan And The Skylark by Thomas and The Christmas Oratorio by Saint-Saens were given jointly with the Chattanooga Civic Chorus.  The thrilling success of the concerts was marred by the shock of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the chorus was forced to disband until after the war.

In 1947, with the pre-war personnel as a nucleus, the Atlanta Music Club and the Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists co-sponsored a revival of the organization, which was renamed Choral Guild of Atlanta.  Haskell Boyter was appointed permanent Director, and its first concert was given at Glenn Memorial Church with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Henry Sopkin conducting.  Mr. Boyter continued as Director until the fall of 1962, when he chose to retire to the position of Director-Emeritus.  His successor was Donald Robinson, who had been Associate Director for several years, and he conducted the Choral Guild of Atlanta until 1975.

Keenly interested in bringing performances of the greatest choral works to Atlanta, the Choral Guild urged the Atlanta Symphony to present Belshazzar’s Feast by William Walton. Don Robinson prepared the chorus and with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Georgia State Brass Ensemble, and Peter Harrower as soloist, Walton’s brilliant masterpiece was performed in the Auditorium on Monday, April 1, 1963. The Atlanta Constitution said of this concert, “Without reservation, the most magnificent performance the Symphony has given in years.”

The chorus toured in Georgia, North and South Carolina, and sang the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven with the London Symphony Orchestra for the Florida International Music Festival in 1967 at Daytona Beach, Florida.

With the arrival of maestro Robert Shaw in 1967, the Guild’s 200 members were asked to perform each season with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  The Choral Guild of Atlanta sang more than twenty performances under Mr. Shaw’s direction. Following the establishment of the Atlanta Symphony Chorus as a separate ensemble, the Choral Guild reorganized in 1973 as a fully independent performing ensemble and has since sponsored its own subscription series.

In 1975, Thomas Schwartz, who had served as assistant conductor and accompanist since 1966, was appointed musical director and conducted two performances of a Bicentennial concert assisted by members of the Atlanta Boy Choir.  Also, on that program were two works by Atlanta composers: Psalm of Praise by Charles Knox and Motet: Psalm 51 by M. Lee Suitor. In collaboration with the Atlanta Ballet and the Atlanta Community Orchestra, two performances of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana were presented in November 1977.  Atlanta newspapers stated that this “musical triumph” was received with “thunderous appreciation” by the overflow audiences.

Under the direction of William Noll, Music Director beginning in 1978, the Choral Guild regularly delighted critics and standing room only audiences with its performances some of which have been broadcast over WPBA-Channel 30/WABE-FM 90.1 in Atlanta, National Public Radio’s “Performance Today” program and Parkway Production’s nationally syndicated “America in Concert” series.  Compact disc recordings include Vaughn Williams’ Sea Symphony, Carl Orff's Catulli Carmina and Stravinsky’s Les Noces, and a Christmas Potpourri.

In April of 1980, the Choral Guild made its Carnegie Hall debut to unanimous critical praise in a concert presentation of Wagner’s first mature opera, Rienzi, with the Opera Orchestra of New York.  The great success of this performance encouraged these groups to again join forces in March 1982, to present Rienzi in repeat performances in Washington’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Lincoln Center.  The review from the New York Times:  “The star for the night;” The Washington Post:  “a tightly disciplined body which sang with stylistic authority,” and the national and international press dramatically confirmed the Choral Guild’s stature as a major performing ensemble.  The Choral Guild’s European debut in a three-city tour of Belgium in April, 1985, performing Bach’s B Minor Mass with the Orchestre des Juenes de la Communaute Française de Belgique, provoked a similar enthusiastic response:  “an unforgettable performance (La Nouvelle Gazette, Mons), and “a superb B Minor Mass,” (De Niewe Gazef, Antwerp).  Truly, “under Noll’s baton, the Choral Guild has developed into one of Atlanta’s leading cultural resources.”  (Atlanta Journal)  In 1988, the Guild also performed at Lincoln Center with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra as part of a festival celebration of a Millennium of Christianity in the Ukraine. The Millennium of Christianity concert was repeated in Atlanta to a standing-room only audience with distinguished Metropolitan Opera Bass Paul Plishka as the principal soloist.

The Choral Guild has a strong history of collaboration with other Georgia arts groups including the Sandy Springs Chamber Orchestra (1986 Christmas concert featuring the premiere of Bryant’s Magnificat in a revised and expanded version, Lee Harper Dancers (Stravinsky’s Les Noces, the Macon Symphony (the world premiere of Pasatieri’s Mass), the Savannah Symphony (Verdi’s Aida), and the Georgia State University Music Department (Les Noces, and the International Symposium of Women in Music).  In October 1992, the Choral Guild presented the world premiere of James Oliverio work, The Lessons of Time, commissioned for the opening of the Fernbank Science Center in Atlanta.

Continuing the commitment of programming choral literature that is not often performed, Dr. Richard Zielinski in the 1993-1994 concert season programmed several outstanding multi-cultural compositions including Amen, Opus 34 by the Polish composer, Henryk Gorecki, Siph’ Amandla arranged by the South African composer, Anders Nyberg, and Domite mi Nino by the Venezuelan composer, V.E. Soto. From 1994 to 1997, under the direction of Gregory Colson, the Choral Guild continued to present a broad variety of choral music including Mendelssohn’s Hymn of Praise, the Magnificats of Bach and Rutter, David Fanshawes’s African Sanctus, the music of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and Verdi’s Requiem with the Georgia Tech Chorale and the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. 

In 1997, James Bohart became conductor/musical director.  Under his direction, the Choral Guild commissioned a work in memory of Haskell Boyter and in honor of Mabel Boyter, The Children’s song of the Nativity. The Guild was twice invited to perform for the Georgia summer convention of the American Choral Directors Association, and presented a concert on the Spivey Hall Choral series.  The Choral Guild of Atlanta accepted an invitation to participate in the pre-Olympic festivities during the summer of 2000 in Sydney, Australia, presenting concerts in Sydney Town Hall, Newcastle Town Hall, and the Cairns Choral Society Center.  On November 12, 2000, the first complete performance in the South of the Grand Mass in E-flat by Mrs. H.H.A. Beach was presented at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.  In July 2004, members of the Choral Guild sang in the Holy Trinity Church in Bern, Switzerland, and the Basilika Wilten in Innsbruck, Austria. Attending the concert in the Hallstatt Catholic Church in Salzburg, Austria, was Archduke Markus Hapsburg, great, great grandson of Emperor Franz Joseph.  "You were engaged singers and presented so well. Thank you for your coming here. We had both your music and chorals from the previous epochs; music as such is universal!"
       

The history of the Choral Guild of Atlanta was complied and edited by James Bohart from previous published documents and interviews.


“Thanks for the excellent concert presented by the Choral Guild of Atlanta at the Georgia American Choral Directors Association Convention at Spivey Hall. I was very impressed with the caliber of musicianship that was evident throughout each section of the choir, the choice of literature and the reaction of the audience. … Your performance transcended the constraints of time and space and that is what musical performance is all about.”

Susan Patterson Cotton
GA ACDA, Past President

"I recently attended a Sunday afternoon of Lenten music performed by the Choral Guild of Atlanta.  I was impressed with a program of music that was so well planned and beautifully executed.  The music flowed from one setting of the Stabat Mater to the other in a very smooth and flowing manner.  As the performance reached a conclusion, the audience rose to their feet and applauded with interspersed sound of “Bravo”.
Congratulation,
Michael B. Kingsbury, BA., MA., SPC.
Atlanta Music Club, Vice President

"The program was one of the best I ever saw, with notes to tell you something about the history of the selection and in many cases, all the words…These people are singers to watch and to hear. Their beautiful program promises concerts to come.”
Celestine Sibley - Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

 

Hallstatt Catholic Church July 19, 2004
"You were engaged  singers and presented so well. Thank you for your coming here. We had both your  music and chorals from the previous epochs; music as such is universal!"
Archduke Markus Habsburg
(Great, great, grandson of Emperor Franz Josef)