Seventy-three years ago, one hundred of Richmond’s best singers gathered on Monday nights to rehearse selections from a spectrum of musical sources—the classical masters, hymns, spirituals, folk arrangements, novelty songs and contemporary works. On April 29, 1947, the singers—soon to be known as the Richmond Choral Society—premiered those nineteen pieces in a concert at the WRVA Theater on East Broad Street.
After launching the group to accolades from music critics, Dr. James Rawlings Sydnor passed the baton in 1949 to Alton L. Howell Sr., who served as director until his death in 1987. Anne Carr Regan then took over. Under the leadership of both, the Richmond Choral Society continued to develop, performing (alone and with other groups) many of the great choral works. Mrs. Regan expanded the group’s repertoire to include theater and popular music.
Under the direction of Thomas A. Williams from 2002-2009, the Richmond Choral Society (RCS) continued to chart new territory. In 2004, RCS presented a landmark performance of Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), in collaboration with Congregation Beth Ahabah. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Clarke Bustard wrote of the Bloch concert, “Thank goodness community groups like the Richmond Choral Society are willing to take on repertory that professional ensembles lack the initiative or imagination to perform.”
The Richmond Choral Society’s current artistic director, Markus Compton, continues the tradition of excellence in performance and programming that makes us unique in the Central Virginia area. In April 2011, RCS proudly presented the Richmond premiere of Yizkor Requiem, featuring world-renowned cantor Benjamin Warschawski. March 2013 saw the production of the Dvořák Stabat Mater, a rarely-performed but beautiful concert-length masterwork. Now celebrating our 73nd season with our traditional Christmas concert, a reprise of the Yizkor Requiem in March 2019, and a concert commemorating the 400th anniversary of key historical events that transpired in 1619, entitled Journey to the New World (1619-2019), the future of the Richmond Choral Society looks bright indeed.