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George Kent Announces Retirement from Chorus

Kent will hold post through June 2012

gala 7WESTERLY, RHODE ISLAND – George Kent, founder of the Chorus of Westerly, announced at the June 16, 2011 Annual Meeting of the Chorus of Westerly that he will be stepping down and retiring from his position as Music Director of the Chorus effective at the end of the ensemble’s 53rd concert season in June 2012.

Mr. Kent, born in Westerly, Rhode Island and raised in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, founded the Chorus of Westerly in 1959 at the age of 21. His purpose in founding the Chorus was to create an organization where area residents, and in particular children, would have the opportunity to sing and perform the great works of music. During his fifty-two years as music director, the Chorus of Westerly developed into one of New England’s most prestigious, respected, and acclaimed performing arts ensembles. The Chorus grew during Mr. Kent’s tenure from a group of 50 singers to an organization of over 190 that now presents an extensive concert season with two classical concert series, a Christmas Pops concert series, the much loved A Celebration of Twelfth Night, and Summer Pops in Wilcox Park. Over 30,000 people now attend Chorus of Westerly events annually.

In announcing his decision to the Chorus membership at the Annual Meeting, Kent noted, “I have very much appreciated everyone’s support and hardwork. I cannot thank you enough for all your help. You have allowed me to grow and supported all the things I wanted to do. We’ve done some really great things. But, I feel it is time. It is time for some young blood to step in and help things continue forward.”

Said Ryan Saunders, Executive Director of the Chorus of Westerly and former child singer under Kent, “George Kent has literally changed the lives of so many of us, myself included, for the better. What he has given to this chorus, this town, and to so many people is hard to sum up in words. With his talent and passion, he easily could have been hired for prestigious music posts all over the country many times in his career. However, we are so fortunate Mr. Kent chose to stay here in Westerly and work so hard on building the Chorus in to what it is today. We are so, so blessed for all he has given to us. We simply cannot thank him enough.”

Over 2,000 area residents, including more than 1,400 children, have been members of the Chorus during Kent’s tenure. These singers have had the chance to sing almost every major choral work of the last five centuries in Westerly, in Providence, and as part of three international tours. As part of the tours (two to the United Kingdom and one to Italy), the Chorus, under Kent’s leadership, sang in Westminster Abbey twice (and was the first American choir ever invited to sing at the abbey), King’s College Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral, the Duomos of Milan, Florence, and Venice, St. Peter’s in Rome, and many other historic venues and cathedrals.  During Kent’s tenure the Chorus has premiered over ten works of notable 20th century English composers including C.V. Stanford, George Dyson, John Rutter, William Mathias, and others.

The Chorus is now one of only three choral organizations in the country that owns its own performance venue, the historic George Kent Performance Hall (the former Immaculate Conception Church at 119 High Street, Westerly). Fulfilling the founding vision of Kent, the Chorus is now the only independent choral organization in the nation where children and adults sing side-by-side for the entire symphonic season as members of equal rank. The Chorus of Westerly and its unique membership and programming has been frequently profiled in Yankee Magazine, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many other regional and national publications.

Outside of his work with the Chorus, Kent has served as organist and choirmaster at Christ Church, Westerly, since 1956. He has also taught music at Rhode Island colleges and universities for over forty years. He is currently Professor of Music at the University of Rhode Island where he teaches music appreciation, trumpet, and organ. Kent’s past posts include tenures as assistant music director and acting music director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kent’s work in the arts and with the Chorus has been celebrated many times throughout the region. Kent has received the Rhode Island Governor’s Arts Award, the South County Center for the Arts Award for Excellence in Music, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Choral Arts New England, the Arts & Business Council Award for Individual Achievement, and was named a History Maker from the Rhode Island Historical Society. In 2003, Kent was named a distinguish alumni by the New England Conservatory of Music. In May 2006, Kent received the prestigious Pell Award. The Pell Award honors Senator Claiborne Pell to recognize artistic excellence both in Rhode Island and nationally. In May 1996, Kent was awarded an honorary doctorate from New York’s General Theological Seminary for his outstanding contribution to church music in America.

“While we are very sad about Mr. Kent’s retirement, we are so grateful for everything he has given us and we look forward to honoring his legacy. We will continue forward as an organization and work hard to select a successor who will sustain Mr. Kent’s vision. The Chorus will continue,” states newly elected Chorus of Westerly President Dan Van Winkle. “This will also be an exciting process as we search for a new director.”

The Chorus of Westerly will indeed continue as an organization after Kent’s tenure. The Chorus of Westerly Board of Directors will announce the formal search process to select Kent’s successor within the next several weeks. Further comments from the Chorus of Westerly Board of Directors will be made at that time.

Awards Received by George Kent

  • Martha Baird Rockefeller Grant for Study of British Choral Tradition (1968) Studied at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge University, under Sir David Willcocks.
  • Fellow, Royal Society of the Arts, England, Honorary membership (1968)
  • U. R. I. Faculty Grant for Study of British Choral Tradition (1970) Studied at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge University, under Sir David Willcocks.
  • Award for Community Betterment, Community Achievement Award, B’nai B’rith Society, Westerly (1972)
  • Governor’s Arts Award, State of Rhode Island; “for exceptional contribution to the arts in Rhode Island" (1988)
  • Citizen of the Year Award, Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce (1991)
  • Jabez Gorham Award, Business Volunteers for the Arts, Rhode Island; given to the Chorus of Westerly and George Kent “for excellence of artistic expression” (1996)
  • Honorary Degree, Doctor of Divinity, General Theological Seminary, New York City; “the highest honor that the General Seminary bestows in recognition of outstanding contributions to and distinguished standing in the Episcopal Church” (1996)
  • Award for Excellence in Music, South County Center for the Arts, Kingston, Rhode Island; “he has had a profound and inspiring effect on South County and the larger Rhode Island community” (1998)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Choral Arts New England, Boston, Massachusetts; “distinguished service to the choral arts in New England” (1999)
  • History Maker Salute Award, Rhode Island Historical Society (2001)
  • Distinguished Alumni, New England Conservatory (2003)
  • Individual Achievement in the Arts, Arts & Business Council RI (2004)
  • Distinguished Alumni, Stonington Education Fund (2006)
  • Pell Award, Trinity Repertory Company (2006)



The Chorus of Westerly is a 190-voice performing arts organization located in Westerly, Rhode Island.  Founded in 1959 by music director George Kent, the Chorus of Westerly is the nation’s only independent intergenerational chorus.  This means that the 80 child/teenage members of the Chorus of Westerly sing alongside the 110 adult members on every performance throughout the concert season regardless of work, difficulty, or demands.  This a practice that is, in this day and age, unheard of in the American performing arts industry and one that has made the Chorus of Westerly unique among its peers.  The Chorus of Westerly’s season now includes two to three classical concert series, a Christmas Pops concert series, seven performances of A Celebration of Twelfth Night, the annual Summer Pops performance in Wilcox Park (with audiences of 25,000 annually), and several choral symposia/workshop weeks at Camp Ogontz in New Hampshire.  The Chorus of Westerly is also one of only three choral organizations to own and operate their own performance venue.  The historic George Kent Performance Hall, located at 119 High Street in Westerly, has been owned by the Chorus since the early 1990s and, in previous iterations as Westerly’s Immaculate Conception Church and the Westerly Center of the Arts, has been its regular performance home since the 1960s.  The facility was expanded and renovated over the last decade thanks to the community’s generous support to a major building capital campaign.  For more information on the Chorus of Westerly, its programs, or the George Kent Performance Hall, please visit or call 401.596.8663.



Press contacts:


Ryan Saunders
Executive Director
The Chorus of Westerly
119 High Street
Westerly, RI 02891
Tel: 401.596.8663


Lee Eastbourne
Operations and Marketing Manager
The Chorus of Westerly
119 High Street
Westerly, RI 02891
Tel: 401.596.8663


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