About CCCS, 2022
Chester County Choral Society is a non-profit community chorus of 75 auditioned singers, based in West Chester, PA. We are honored and excited to celebrate our 50th season in 2022-2023! We are dedicated to excellence in performing diverse choral music, to enrich the cultural life of our community, audiences, and members. CCCS is run by a volunteer Board and a professional director, associate director, accompanist, and webmaster. Our Artistic Director, Gary P. Garletts, has led us since 1999, and our accompanist, Ann Marie Ellis, has played for us since 1995. We were founded as the Exton Chorale in 1973 by Dr. Craig Rider, and now boast members from throughout the Brandywine Valley.
CCCS presents two to three major concerts per year in multiple venues. We offer outreach concerts at retirement communities, churches, and community events such as Chester County’s Naturalization Ceremony and West Chester Old-fashioned Christmas. Our online presence includes Facebook, YouTube, and our website, www.chescochoral.org.
Through our annual Vocal Competition, CCCS encourages high school seniors in Chester County with competitive monetary awards and performance opportunities. CCCS collaborates periodically with other choirs, professional soloists, conductors, and orchestras, including the Kennett Symphony of Chester County, Newark Symphony Orchestra, Pennsylvania Philharmonic, and Immaculata Symphony. CCCS has toured twice in Europe, and by invitation has sung at Bruton Parish Church (colonial Williamsburg), the National Cathedral, Alfred University, and Longwood Gardens.
CCCS has presented two world premieres by Chester County composers: David Bennett Thomas' By the Brandywine and Valerie Showers Crescenz' Mass of Peace.
During the recent pandemic, CCCS produced five virtual choir videos, which are available on YouTube.
CCCS has performed numerous choral masterworks, including Faure’s Requiem, Vivaldi's Gloria, Bach's Magnificat, Handel's Messiah, Brahms' Requiem, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. The Society is equally at home with shorter works, contemporary choral pieces, and lighter fare, including musical theatre, opera, popular tunes, folksongs, spirituals, and holiday favorites.
Why Choruses Matter
According to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, one in 10 American adults sings weekly in a chorus. For most, choral singing begins in a school chorus, but millions of people carry their love of singing into adulthood. The broad appeal of choral singing is based in the unsurpassed opportunity it gives each singer to participate in an activity that involves them artistically, builds community, and results in a product of great beauty. In working toward a beautiful choral sound, people contribute to an artistic product greater than themselves and forge friendships that change the course of their lives. The synergy of this musical mission infuses choral organizations with energy and purpose that result in extraordinary contributions to their communities - through stellar performances and recordings of great works, the creation of new repertoire, innovative educational programs, and cooperative partnerships with other community organizations.
Choral groups and choral singers are diverse in the broadest sense: involving the old and young, in myriad musical styles from classical to gospel. Some choruses employ professional singers with significant music background and training. Professional choruses often set the standard of quality and beautiful choral sound. Some choruses are rooted in volunteerism, and their mission is to involve singers from the community who share the love of singing. Others aim to make the move from performing with only volunteer singers to including a core of paid professional singers.
All of these various groups promote cultural excellence, community and national pride. Their performing venues are equally diverse -- from community festivals and shopping malls to major concert halls -- ensuring that choral music touches all members of a community, regardless of economic status, age, or ethnic origin.
Choruses and Civic Engagement
The fact that choral singing is a communal activity is especially significant today when we increasingly rely on Internet-based communications, rather than face-to-face interaction. Several recent studies have shown a significant decline in civic engagement in our communities. Robert Putnam, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government scholar (best known for his book, Bowling Alone) asserts that the significance of choral singing goes beyond music making, and even beyond the arts. He sees group performing as contributing directly "whatever the makeup of the group" to the social trust and reciprocity that is the basis of civic engagement. Putnam's work shows that the mere existence of choral groups helps foster America's democratic culture (see his web site, www.BowlingAlone.com). Putnam's colleague Tom Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar, gave a keynote address, "Choral Singing and Civic Engagement," at the Chorus America Conference in Toronto this past June. The Saguaro Seminar recently published a report, "Better Together," chronicling the "erosion of social capital in America" and outlining ways to reverse those trends. You can access this report through the web site, www.bettertogether.org. Other experts agree that political sociologists bemoaning the decline of community in America would do well to check out their local choral scene. For example, "Singing in a choir" is listed in the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's publication Social Capital, a checklist of activities that can promote social "connectedness."
[This article was originally published by Chorus America.]
The Chester County Choral Society is an avocational chorale dedicated to excellence in performing diverse choral music, in order to enrich the cultural life of its members, audiences and community.
CCCS believes in:
To sing like this, in the company of other souls, and to make those consonants slip out so easily and in unison, and to make those chords so rich that they bring tears to your eyes. This is transcendence. This is the power that choral singing has that other music can only dream of."