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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

Dream comes true for Community Chorus at Carnegie Hall

By Carol Montana - reporter/photographer

The Sullivan County Community Chorus takes a break from rehearsals. Center front in black is Dr. Lisa Billingham from George Mason University in Virginia, who conducted the performance of “Requiem for the Living” at Carnegie Hall.
So, there's an old joke - some cite its origins as being from the Catskills' Borscht Belt - about how you get to Carnegie Hall … ah, you've heard that one already. But here's the thing, it's all true. And it's how the Sullivan County Community Chorus wound up performing at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday, May 28.
Talent, ingenuity, hard work, determination, knowing who to contact and yes, loads of practice all contributed to the nearly year-long project of getting the Chorus to one of the most famous concert venues in the world.
It all started back in the summer of 2018 when the Chorus submitted a letter of application to Mid-America Productions (MAP). Chorus spokesperson Mary Burkart explained that MAP is “a well-known production company that specializes in collaborating with outstanding symphony orchestras (in this case the New England Symphonic Ensemble) to provide educational ‘mini residencies' to high school, collegiate, and community ensembles from across the country interested in excelling and gaining the opportunity to perform at a high level in hallowed venues throughout the world.

The Chorus' application detailed their history and repertoire, and focused, Burkart said, “especially, on its diligence, camaraderie and attitude of mutual support as a group.” Along with the application, were three-minute audio clips from the Chorus' last two concerts.
In mid-October, Chorus Director Kevin Giroux heard back from MAP that the group would be “an excellent fit as a fill choir,” (one that performs as a guest of MAP), and was being invited to join the George Mason University Chorale and Friends from Fairfax, VA, and the Morris Knolls High School Chorale from Rockaway, NJ for a performance of Dan Forrest's “Requiem for the Living,” conducted by Dr. Lisa A. Billingham.
And so, after months of practice and planning, 40 of the Chorus' 60 members walked onto the Perelman Stage in the Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall.
But they weren't the only Sullivan County residents in attendance. The Chorus' appearance at the hallowed venue engendered such excitement that local tour company CD Trips CEO Gary Siegel, along with Rolling V Bus Corp., decided to put together a trip to Carnegie Hall to support the singers.
And so, a packed bus arrived in NYC around 5:10 p.m. on Tuesday to roam the city, have dinner and support an organization near and dear to their hearts.
Chorus President Lou Setren was still “walking on air” two days after the performance. “This amazing group has brought me such joy since my high school days, and I am so very, very pleased we are able to continue the inclusion of high school and college students in our ensemble ... I am incredibly thankful for my chorus family, as well as all of our sponsors, and the outstanding services provided by Rolling V and CD Trips, in transporting our performers to rehearsals, and so many family and friends of the chorus to the performance.”
“The whole Carnegie Hall experience was a dream come true for us,” said Burkart. “The Sullivan County Community Chorus was already a warm, mutually supportive group with a ‘family' feel, but the experience of rising to this level of excellence and performing in such a hallowed venue together has brought us even closer.” She expressed the Chorus' thanks to Director Kevin Giroux and accompanist Keira Weyant, “who work so hard with us each and every week to make such dreams a reality!"
Next up for the 43-year-old Sullivan County Community Chorus is a tribute performance to 40-year member Lou Setren that will take place on June 9 at 3 p.m. in the Bernstein Theatre at Tri-Valley School in Grahamsville. The concert will feature Dan Forrest's second choral masterpiece “Jubilate Deo,” which is sung in seven languages. The 60-voice Chorus will be accompanied by a large orchestra of local musicians, including many regional faculty members and a few very talented students, and will highlight some native instrumentation, such as the Chinese “ehru” violin and the African “djembe” drum.
For more information on upcoming concerts and membership, check out the Sullivan County Community Chorus Facebook page or visit

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