A Look Ahead to the 75th, A Look Back

As WCS moves toward the celebration of the 75th anniversary, thoughts have turned to the chorus’ early days. Last month, we reminisced about the chorus’ beginning in the 1940s. But, as the next few decades unfolded with major upheavals in the US, the chorus remained a steady, burgeoning force, entertaining audiences in Westchester and beyond.

Under the leadership of a new conductor, Lowell Broomall, in the 50s, the chorus blossomed. It was called at that time the Westchester Philharmonic Choral Society and grew to about 60 members by 1960. The chorus’ repertoire expanded as well. Members performed with chamber orchestras at concerts, sang with the Westchester Symphony twice and became firmly established as the oldest secular chorus in Westchester.

rehearsal photo

When Lyndon Woodside took over as music director in the late 60s, modern and contemporary compositions were added to the wellspring of well-loved classical favorites. In 1976, the society presented Mozart’s Regina Coeli in B Flat, which had never been performed in modern times.The chorus sang from an edition specially prepared by Woodside. He also conducted Donald Erb’s New England Prospect in 1979, Lazar Weiner’s The Last Judgment in 1981, and David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in 1982. Annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in December were added, sometimes in conjunction with the Oratorio Society of New York. The chorus grew to roughly 100 singers.

While WCS was enriching the cultural life of Westchester, major developments were taking place throughout the country. Music was in its heyday. The Beatles arrived in the US, Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll and pop music classics, such as San Francisco and selections from the Woodstock Festival, filled the airwaves.

But music was no balm for the turbulence roiling the US. The Vietnam War, Civil Rights marches and riots in Los Angeles and Detroit, assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and Malcolm X stained the nation.

Nevertheless, some iconic cultural events made their mark: Muhammad Ali took the heavyweight boxing crown, the Peanuts comic strip was first published, TV came of age with the premiere of I Love Lucy and The Today Show on NBC, Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for President of the US and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

The next few decades brought a new home and the beginning of a new chapter in WCS’ life. Check out next month’s newsletter for a look at how a new music director brought a new touch that shapes the chorus today.


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