History of Choruses in Atlanta

Q: One quick historical note: When you came to Atlanta in the late sixties, was there a chorus here?

RS: There was a chorus called the Atlanta Choral Guild. And as a matter of fact I had conducted it the year prior to my coming. I came down to do, as I suppose several conductors did, were called - the year prior to your hiring, you’re a part of a group as a sort of selection process, to see in my instance, I suppose to see whether I’d learned enough in Cleveland to take over the building of an orchestra. And so there was an Atlanta Choral Guild here.

And so when I came down, though we had had a very successful chorus in Cleveland, and it was, had a good deal of prestige in the United States, I didn’t immediately start a Atlanta Symphony Chorus, and when I did a year or so later, it was in conjunction with a course at Georgia State University which is a part of the Georgia State University system, but a downtown university in downtown Atlanta, and it was a course presumably in choral techniques and choral conducting but it was based around a chamber chorus. That it is to say, since the symphony chorus already was in existence - since a symphonic chorus already was in existence - that wasn’t tied up with the symphony at all, and I didn’t want to run the risk of killing that chorus, we built a chamber chorus of about forty voices. And it was a superb instrument really, right from the very beginning because, with the new boy in town, people wanted to at least give a year up to it, and so it had an awful lot of fine church singers particularly and church soloists who came and joined that first choir. And then it was conducted in front of a course, I suppose of maybe as many, as I recall, eighty to one hundred choral conductors who would come every night to rehearsal down at Georgia State and observe how it was. And we did a B minor mass the first time, so they got both the training in the B minor mass and in choral techniques and the observation.

And then the chorus, the Atlanta Choral Guild, had suffered some disruptions in its musical leadership, and at that moment it seemed wise to... - it had sort of disappeared.  It has since been resurrected and still operates and does its own season here in Atlanta now - it seemed wise to undertake to build the Atlanta Symphony chorus of a symphonic dimension. And so that’s the sequence.

Now also at that time then when we had the Atlanta Symphony chorus of symphonic dimension, we were no longer, I was no longer associated with, this job was getting larger and occupying more and more time, and the undertaking of the chorus, as well as the building of the orchestra, took enough time so that it seemed wise to drop the association with the university.  And we then also from time to time elected a chamber chorus within the symphonic chorus that would take responsibility for maybe, oh, not even one concert a year but one concert every other year, or a Baroque part of a thing at Christmas or something like that. So both choruses now operate. There is a chamber chorus connected with the Atlanta Symphony and then there’s the symphonic chorus.  And both of them do two to three or four performances per year with the symphony.