History of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus

History of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus

The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus is an independent non-profit organization, originally established by Jessamine E. Long in 1937 as the Buffalo Schola Cantorum. Ms. Long was succeeded in 1945 by Cameron Baird, who guided the group to prominence during its formative years. Under Mr. Baird’s baton, the Chorus became established as the premier choral ensemble in Western New York. The Chorus prospered through the years under a number of distinguished music directors including Willis Page, Joseph Wincenc, Robert Beckwith, Melvin Strauss, Frederick Burgomaster, and Peter Perret. For two decades, from 1979 until his death in 2001, Thomas Swan led the Chorus through a period of extraordinary growth.

In 1986, Mr. Swan became the first recipient of the Cameron Baird Conductor’s Chair, established through an endowment named to honor and remember Mr. Baird. Dr. Dale Adelmann succeeded Mr. Swan and led the group until 2003, followed by Dr. L. Brett Scott until 2007. The Chorus is pleased to have named Dr. Doreen Rao as music director and recipient of the Cameron Baird Conductor’s Chair as of the 2008-09 season.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus appears in concert at various venues throughout Western New York including Artpark, Our Lady of Victory Basilica, and the Chautauqua Institution. The Chorus also performs frequently with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in the Classics and Pops concert series at Kleinhans Music Hall and in special events at various locations. To reflect its close association with the Orchestra, the Chorus formally changed its name to Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus (BPC) in 1992.

In 2007, to commemorate the BPC’s 70th anniversary, the Chorus commissioned composer Randol Alan Bass to write Passage Into Spirit for Chorus, Soloists and Orchestra, a work inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman. The piece was premiered at Kleinhans Music Hall on March 25, 2007. A compact disc recording of Passage Into Spirit, including other Bass compositions, was released in the spring of 2009.
Also in 2009, the Chorus introduced the inaugural season of Buffalo Sings! Community Concert Series, a series of concerts designed to demonstrate “community service through singing,” involving the Western New York community in song.

In 2007, members of the Chorus joined with the Virginia Symphony Chorus on a European singing tour of Prague, Leipzig, and Berlin. And in 2009, as an encore, the BPC again traveled to the Czech Republic for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem, in the former Terezin Concentration Camp, symbolically titled Defiant Requiem.

Other milestones include the commissioning of Te Deum by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento, premiered by the Chorus and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1988. In 1999 the Chorus presented the world premiere of Peace Requiem by Persis Vehar. In December of 2000, the BPC was featured on National Public Radio in a performance of Handel’s Messiah with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of JoAnn Falletta.

Recent performances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus include Mahler’s Symphony No.2 “Resurrection,” Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 “Chorale,” Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 “Lobgesang,” Orff’s Carmina Burana, Faure’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Lukas Foss’ With Music Strong, and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony.

by Andrea Copley