The Chorus of Westerly Board of Directors
While the Chorus membership is made up of volunteer singers, the professional
orientation of the Chorus is apparent in each and every event. The vast
majority of the adult singers have received some professional voice training.
The children of the Chorus spend extra time before the season at a special
choir camp learning theory, vocal technique, and other choral exercises to
better train them for the year ahead. For concerts with works that
require soloists, professional vocal artists are hired and brought in to
perform. These soloists are highly respected national and international artists
and often work with our singers during their weekend performance stays. The orchestra that works with the chorus for each major concert is a fully professional group made up of some of the best musicians from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The orchestra size for a particular concert is not budget-driven but rather score-driven. This means that if the score or the maestro calls for 45 musicians, the Chorus hires that number of professionals.This helps ensure the authentic music experience for the
performers and audience. It is the objective of the Chorus to perform great
works of music as one would hear them in the great American concert halls of Boston, New
York, or San Francisco.
For some of the Chorus’s events that are not typical symphonic concerts, such as the theatrical A Celebration of Twelfth Night, the Chorus brings in professional theater directors, choreographers, performers, lighting technicians and stage crew, the majority of whom are from Rhode Island or Connecticut, to work with the many volunteer performers and production assistants to present the shows as professionally as possible. For Summer Pops, the Chorus engages professional sound and light companies (Capron of Boston), firework professionals (Grucci), and other special event professionals to create the best possible community event.
Over the past season, in an effort to broaden its arts offerings and bring in new audiences, the Chorus has launched its Collegiate Concert Series and its Family Event Series to engage new and younger audience members with the performing arts through high quality, but accessible, programming. The Whiffenpoofs of Yale began the Collegiate Series in February 2011 with a sold-out performance. The Dartmouth Aires came to the hall in February 2012 fresh off their finalist appearance on NBC's The Sing-off. The Family Events include such popular activites as Chorus Singathon, Oktoberfest, St. Patrick's Day, and Quirk vs. Chicoria. It is the hope that these new events introduce the arts to a new and wider audience while still being at the same level of excellence and quality as other Chorus programs. In 2013, the Chorus will launch the Kent Hall Master Artists Series with an inaugural concert featuring The King's Singers.
The Chorus of Westerly has been celebrated in many publications and through many awards and honors given to the Chorus or George Kent. In 2008, the Boston Globe declared A Celebration of Twelfth Night one of the world’s best Twelfth Night celebrations (ranking it just behind events in London and New York). Awards received by the Chorus and Kent over the last twenty years include: The Governor’s Arts Award, The Jabez Gorham Business Award, the Tourism Achivement Award, Choral Arts New England’s Lifetime Achievement Award, History Maker Award, Encore Award, and recently Kent’s Pell Award from the State of Rhode Island.
More facts about the Chorus of Westerly
- The current music director of The Chorus of Westerly is Andrew Howell, a former Chorus child singer and student of retired director George Kent, who began his tenure in July 2012.
- The Chorus of Westerly was founded in 1959 by George Kent who served as music director through June 2012.
- The Chorus of Westerly was founded in order to give both children and adults the opportunity to, together, sing and perform the great choral works of the past eight centuries in a professional setting.
- The Chorus of Westerly currently has just over 200 singing members. 84 of these 200 are children ages 8 to 18.
- The Chorus of Westerly is one of only a few choral organizations in the United States to own its own facility.
- The Chorus of Westerly has an ambitious year-round season. Classical concerts are offered each November, March and May with professional orchestra and soloists or a small chamber ensemble. During the holiday season, the Chorus presents a series of Christmas Pops performances with orchestra, and seven presentations (just after Christmas) of A Celebration of Twelfth Night. This presentation is a musical and theatrical extravaganza (originally inspired by Revels) that features the Chorus, a small orchestra, and the talents of nearly 300 other community performers and volunteers. In June, the Chorus offers Summer Pops in Westerly’s 18-acre Wilcox Park to audiences of 25,000 and more annually.
- The Chorus has hosted Summer Choral Workshops at Camp Ogontz in New Hampshire, every summer since 1990. The workshops have been led by Sir David Willcocks, Richard Marlow, Herbert Bock, James Litton, and, most recently, David Hill of the London Bach Choir and BBC Singers.
- The Chorus runs its own week-long summer camp program for its children and teenagers each August to prepare them for the season ahead and to teach them music fundamentals.
- Over its 54 seasons, the Chorus has brought to Westerly many of the greatest choral works ever written, from Bach’s B Minor Mass to Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, receiving critical acclaim and attention in both the regional media and in national publications such as the New York Times and Yankee Magazine.
- The Chorus has performed seven U.S. premieres of British choral works and has undertaken three large-scale concert tours abroad, twice to Great Britain and once to Italy. As part of these tours, the Chorus performed at King’s College Chapel, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral, Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, and performed the Verdi Requiem for the prestigious closing concert of the 1987 Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds.
George Kent Performance Hall
Although the Chorus has performed in various locations throughout New England and toured internationally, its home is in Westerly. Since 1969, the Chorus has rehearsed and performed in what is now the George Kent Performance Hall, and was formerly the Westerly Immaculate Conception Church, and later the Westerly Center for the Arts. When the Center for the Arts organization ceased to exist in 1991, the Chorus purchased the historic building. The building with its main nave/hall, is renowned for its exceptional acoustics, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Chorus completed an extensive renovation, restoration, and expansion of the building, thanks to the support of the community through a capital campaign, and the facility was rededicated as the George Kent Performance Hall in September, 2005.
Music Directors of The Chorus of Westerly
George Kent (founder) – September 1959 to June 2012
Andrew Howell – July 2012 to present