SGCS at 200: The National Television Broadcast of Noye’s Fludde

This is the final piece in a series of posts celebrating St. George's Choral Society's history during our bicentennial year.

CBS broadcast of  Noye's Fludde , 1964.

CBS broadcast of Noye's Fludde, 1964.

At Christmas time in 1964, CBS broadcast St. George's production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye's Fludde to a national audience. The performance featured the Choral Society and members of St. George's Church, ages 4 through 90.

The program included an interview with St. George’s Church’s Rev. Dr. Edward O. Miller. He discussed the relevance of the performance and reasons the Church and its music program undertook such an enormous production:

"We decided that the time had come to have a parish church present something which would draw together the entire community. People of all ages. In this performance were people from preschool age through their 80s. Which would bring together people of all religions or of no religion. Which would give them something of high standard, which was first-rate musically. In which they could all throw themselves and join. This is why we chose this particular performance. And we called together 200 people in the cast. As you’ve seen, there were 100 animals and birds. We had a few unexpected difficulties. We had planned to have the animals and birds come in two by two. At the first performance however, we discovered that one of the weasels had come down with the measles.

The birds enter the ark. From CBS broadcast of  Noye's Fludde , 1964.

The birds enter the ark. From CBS broadcast of Noye's Fludde, 1964.

"We had a second reason for doing this, and this was to give people a sense of the roots in the past in a day when many people are frightened that humanity may be blown off the face of the earth. Here is a story, a biblical story, written probably 1,000 years before the time of Christ, but based on legends long before that. The Babylonian myth of the flood, which is preserved for us in certain of the ancient epics. Here is a miracle play, and written by a great contemporary British composer. This is why we chose to perform this particular work, and this is why the people have been so enthusiastic that we are not only going to show it on television at this performance, but we are going to have other performances at St. George’s Church from May 13 to 16, 1965."


As our 200th year comes to a close, Rev. Miller’s words about the importance of bringing together a community ring as true now as they did more than 50 years ago. We thank you for being a part of our community today.

Happy New Year!

Meet the Soloists

Learn more about the soloists for our performance of Dvorak's Requiem on Sunday, November 19 at 2:30 pm:


Praised by The Washington Post for her “clarion” voice with “a wealth of shades," French and Canadian soprano Chloé Olivia Moore makes her role debut this season as as Liù in Turandot with both Dayton Opera and Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre, and sings performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with both The Orchestra Now and the Rogue Valley Symphony. Last season she sang Nedda in I pagliacci (Dayton Opera), Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Bar Harbor Music Festival), and made her Kennedy Center debut in the Art Song Discovery Series; with Vocal Arts DC. Other recent performances include: Leïla in Les pêcheurs de perles (Dayton Opera) and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Castleton Festival). While a Resident Artist at the prestigious Academy of Vocal Arts she performed numerous roles including: Violetta in La Traviata, Manon Massenet’s Manon, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Adina in L'elisir d’amore, Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande, Antonia in Les contes d’Hoffman, Garcias in Don Quichotte, Zdenka in Arabella, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, and Ms. Brown in the world premiere of The Scarlet Letter. On the concert stage, Ms. Moore has performed Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Poulenc’s Gloria, Mozart’s Requiem, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Haydn’s Creation. Ms. Moore has won top prizes with the George London Foundation (George London Award), Gerda Lissner Foundation (1st Prize), Giulio Gari Foundation (2nd Prize), Liederkranz Foundation (3rd Prize, Opera Division), Loren Zachary Vocal Competition (3rd Prize), and in her native Canada with the Prix Jeune Espoir Lyrique Canadien with Les Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques.


Hailed as a “vibrant stage personality” matched with a “sizable creamy mezzo,” Carla Jablonski’s vocal versatility has captivated audiences across the globe. Ms. Jablonski was most recently praised for inhabiting the title role in Dido and Aeneas with “impressive sophistication.” She returns to The Metropolitan Opera this season to sing in productions of Cavalleria Rusticana, Parsifal and Verdi’s Requiem. She also sings as soloist in Dvorak’s Requiem. Past seasons include her role debut as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte followed by performances of the Secretary in The Consul with Florida Grand Opera, with whom she also sang Annina in La Traviata and 3rd Lady in Die Zauberflöte. Previously, she’s sung various roles with Wolf Trap Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Central City Opera, and Chautauqua. Equally at home on the concert stage and an advocate of new music, Ms. Jablonski made her Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall singing Five Songs by Charles Ives arranged for orchestra by John Adams, followed by her Carnegie Hall debut as the alto soloist in Handel’s Messiah. She also has sung as a featured soloist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, New York Festival of Song, Caramoor International Music Festival, and American Opera Projects, among others. She holds a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Music from Manhattan School of Music and is a recipient of a Drama Desk Award.


Praised by Opera News for his “galvanizing presence,” this season tenor Jonathan Tetelman makes his New Orleans Opera debut as Marco in Chadwick and Barnet’s Tobasco. He also joins both the Berkshire Opera Festival and Gulf Shore Opera for Duca in Rigoletto, the Metropolitan Opera’s roster for their production of Norma, and sings Dvorak’s Requiem with St. George’s Choral Society. Last season, Mr. Tetelman sang his first performances of Rodolfo in La bohème with the Fujian Grand Theatre in China, joined the Milan Festival Orchestra in Lake Como, Italy for Verdi’s Requiem, the Orchestra Now for Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, and made his Carnegie Hall debut with the New England Symphonic Ensemble for Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Additionally, he joined St. George’s Choral Society for Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Gulf Shore Opera for concert performances including selections of Alfredo in La Traviata, Rodolfo in La bohème, Duca in Rigoletto, and was a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions New York District. Other recent performances include: Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus(Martina Arroyo Foundation); Gnecchi’s Cassandra (Teatro Grattacielo); and Steven Sankey in Weil’s Street Scene, Freddy Eynsford-Hill in My Fair Lady, and Alfredo in La Traviata (Opera North). Mr. Tetelman is the First Prize winner in the 2016 New York Lyric Opera Competition, 2016 prize-winning finalist in the Mildred Miller (Opera Theater of Pittsburgh) Competition, and was a semi-finalist in both the Giulio Gari International Vocal Competition and the Gerda Lissner International Vocal Competition.


A recipient of the prestigious Lenore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts, baritone Alex Lawrence made his Vancouver Opera debut in the 2017 season as the title role in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and will debut the role of Il Conte in the same opera in the 17/18 season with Opera Naples. Formerly a member of the ensembles of Theater Basel and Opernhaus Zürich, Lawrence made his European debut in Switzerland singing The Hunter in Rusalka, Moralès in Carmen and L’Ami in Debussy’s rarely performed La Chute de la Maison Usher. Since then, he went on to make several further role debuts in Zürich, including Silvio in Pagliacci under Alexander VedernikovNed Keene in Peter Grimes under Erik Nielsen, and the three baritone roles of Bohuslav Martinu’s rarely performed Juliette, under Fabio Luisi. Previous noteworthy engagements included his principal role debut with the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY, singing Belfiore in Verdi’s King For a Day, of which The New York Times noted the debut of a “sensational” new talent. In 2014, Lawrence performed in a high profile gala concert for the 85th Anniversary of the Ópera de Bellas Artes alongside legendary tenor Franzisco Araiza, soprano Maria Katzarava and bass Eric Halfvarson. He made his Lucerne Festival debut as Don Quixote in Manuel De Falla’s El Retable del Maese Pedro conducted by Clement Power, performed as the baritone soloist in Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurghisnacht with the Orchestra Symphonique de Mulhouse, and debuted the role of Sam in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti for the opening festival of Opernhaus Zürich’s 2012/13 season. A 2007 B.M. graduate of Northwestern University, Alex Lawrence received an Artist Diploma from the Academy of Vocal Arts in 2011, and has been a top prizewinner in several major international competitions.

SGCS at 200: The Revolutionary William S. Rainsford

William S. Rainsford, in  The Story of a Varied Life (1922).

William S. Rainsford, in The Story of a Varied Life (1922).

This is one of a series of posts celebrating St. George's Choral Society's history during our bicentennial year.

In the late 1800s, St. George’s Church became the first Episcopalian parish to allow female choir members and the first white congregation to hire an African-American soloist. Both were thanks to the vision of one man: reform-minded rector William S. Rainsford.

Rainsford arrived at St. George’s Church in 1883 at age 33. One condition of his accepting the position was ending the practice of renting pews, making the church “absolutely free.”¹ Rainsford turned St. George’s into a parish offering not just worship, but also education and social services.²

His first major reform to St. George’s music program came in the 1880s. As Rainsford wrote in his 1922 autobiography, The Story of a Varied Life:

The next change I strove for was in the church music, and here I first encountered opposition. My plans were revolutionary—nothing less than a new organ, new organist, new choir … I wanted congregational singing.

I did dearly want to make the services of the church appeal to all, not part of my people. I wanted a chancel choir, but I wanted it of women as well as of boys and men, and this being my aim, that choir must be a surpliced choir. There lay the difficulty. My vestry was divided. Surpliced choir in old St. George’s! That was too much, even for them.³

Women in religious vestments (surplices) singing in a church choir was revolutionary at the time—it’s not surprising that the decision led several members of the church to leave. Rainsford wrote that St. George’s most famous benefactor and member, J. P. Morgan, “took a good deal of persuading before I got him to my view. But he came to it finally, and then headed the list of subscribers that put up the very considerable amount of money my changes called for.”⁴ 

In 1902, suffragist and social activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote about Rainsford’s mixed choir in an article for the Baltimore Sun. She quoted church officials opposed to his efforts, including one who described female choir members singing in surplices “an abomination,” and another who stated that if women must sing in a vested chorus, “they should be as inconspicuous as possible.”⁵ 

Stanton, unsurprisingly, disagreed. She wrote, “All praise to those clergymen and to Dr. Rainsford, who 15 years ago led the way in giving the church a new idea of its duty in regard to the emancipation of women.”⁶ 

Rainsford also faced opposition when he hired African-American baritone Harry T. Burleigh as a church soloist in 1894. He wrote in his autobiography:

I can only recall, in all those years, one serious commotion in my white-robed company. That was on the memorable occasion when, without warning (for this course I thought the wisest), I broke the news to them that I was going to have for soloist a Negro, Harry Burleigh. Then division, consternation, confusion, and protest reigned for a time. I never knew how the troubled waters settled down. Indeed, I carefully avoided knowing who was for and who against my revolutionary arrangement. Nothing like it had ever been known in the church's musical history. The thing was arranged and I gave no opportunity for its discussion. When the question is one of church policy, I held, and hold, that the decision lies with the rector and with none other.⁷

On this occasion once again, J. P. Morgan stood by Rainsford. He approved immediately of Burleigh’s hiring, and even invited Burleigh into his home to sing every Christmas.⁸ 

After more than 20 years as rector, Rainsford resigned from St. George’s Church in 1906. He died in 1933 at age 84.⁹


1. William Stephen Rainsford, The Story of a Varied Life: An Autobiography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1922), p. 201. [accessed 25 September 2017].

2. ‘Rainsford, William Stephen’, The Episcopal Church. [accessed 25 September 2017].

3. Rainsford, p. 213.

4. Rainsford, p. 214.

5. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ‘Women in Church Choirs: Their Right to Wear Ecclesiastical Vestments and March in Processionals’, The Sun (1837-1991); Baltimore, Md. (6 July 1902), p. 12.

6. Stanton.

7. Rainsford, p. 217.

8. Snyder, Jean E. Harry T. Burleigh. (University of Illinois Press, 2016), p. 219.

9. “DR. W.S. RAINSFORD DIES IN 84TH YEAR.” The New York Times. (18 December 1933), p. 19.  [accessed 25 September 2017].

Add Your Voice!

Rehearsals for our Fall 2017 concert begin on September 6. We want you to sing with us! 

Want to join for the first time? We will hold auditions for all voice parts on September 6 and 13, from 6:00-7:00. Contact us to schedule an audition. 

We rehearse from 7:00–9:30 PM on Wednesday evenings at St. George's Chapel, 5 Rutherford Place, one block east of Third Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets. Find out more about membership in the Members section of our website, and download our rehearsal schedule.

Our Fall concert, the last of our 200th year, features Dvorak's Requiem. We premiered this piece in America in 1892. For our Spring concert of Verdi's Requiem, we will perform with the Greenwich Village Orchestra for the first time.

Click the appropriate image below to contact us:

Our 2017-2018 Season

It's almost time to start singing once more. Our bicentennial year comes to an exciting close with our fall concert of the Dvořák Requiem. We welcome new members. Contact to set up an audition and join in the celebration. 

Keep singing with us as we close out the season with a new collaboration and our annual Summer Choral Festival.

Fall Concert with Orchestra
Sunday, November 19 at 2:30 PM

Church of the Incarnation, Madison Avenue at 35th Street
Dvořák: Requiem, opus 89

For the final program of our bicentennial year, we present a choral masterpiece: Dvořák’s Requiem. The connection between composer Antonín Dvořák and St. George’s Choral Society is rich and interesting, including a link with American icon Harry Burleigh. This program includes a complete performance of the Requiem, a piece St. George's Choral Society debuted in America in 1892. For full orchestra, large chorus and soloists, it is a fitting conclusion to the bicentennial celebration of St. George’s Choral Society.

Spring Concert with Orchestra
Sunday, April 29 at 2:30 PM

Church of the Incarnation, Madison Avenue at 35th Street
Verdi: Requiem

St. George’s Choral Society joins forces with another group of highly skilled amateurs, the Greenwich Village Orchestra, in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem. Led by Music Director Barbara Yahr, this 70-person orchestra has brought orchestral music to New York City for more than 25 years. Barbara Yahr and Matthew Lewis have been discussing the possibility of a collaborative program for some time now and it seems this Verdi program is the perfect fit. The Verdi Requiem offers many rewarding elements, for both choral singers and orchestral players. This monumental work is always an audience favorite.

Summer Choral Festival
Saturday, June 16 at 7:00 PM
Rehearsals begin June 5

Church of the Incarnation, Madison Avenue at 35th Street
Bach: Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230
Schubert: Mass in C, D 452

The Summer Festival is a program of works for choir and strings. Bach’s motet, Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, BWV 230, is the only one not scored for double chorus. Singers will enjoy performing this contrapuntal masterpiece in German. The choral works of Bach are a great way to get a choir to exercise their agility and clarity! The Schubert Mass in C is a refreshing alternative to his popular Mass in G. Full of lyricism, brilliance, and charm, this piece is a delight to sing, and a refreshing program for any audience. The combination of these two works will be an enticing program for summer singers.

#MySGCSMemory, continued

St. George's Choral Society memories keep coming in, and we are thrilled to share them with you. You can submit #MySGCSMemory here.

My St. George’s memory goes back to the performance of Noye’s Fludde—probably sometime in the 60s. I didn’t dream that some years later I would be living in St. George’s neighborhood. Soon after we settled in I attended a Christmas Candlelight service. In the program there was a note inviting anyone to join the Choral Society. In fear and trembling I braved Ken Dake’s audition—and made it. It was a great singing with Ken, Harry and Matthew.
— Sue Nichols

We can only continue creating musical memories with your support! Our fiscal year ends on July 31. Consider making a year-end donation today to support the choral memories of tomorrow.

We were members of the St George’s Choral Society in the golden days of Charles Henderson and Calvin Hampton. Our first concert was a joint program of “Elijah” with Frederick Swann on the organ, done both at St. George’s and at Riverside Church. 300 voices.

The group did four or five concerts each year with an orchestra made of of the finest freelance musicians in the city. Then there was the Christmas Gala. Most programs were packed to the gills. We did most of the important choral works of Haydn and Mozart. Henderson dragged us through Britten’s “Cantata Misericordium.” We were background for concerts by the organist E. Power Biggs who recorded several albums on the great organ. We did the Beethoven “Choral Fantasia” twice. Also Brahms’ “Requiem.”

Under Calvin Hampton we did Carmina Burana twice, once with orchestra and once as intended with two pianos and percussion. Most memorable was Frank’s “Les Beatitudes,” a monumental work, especially since there was a lot of French for us to do.

One think I see different from amateur choral groups today is that there were a lot of singers under 40. In fact the rules requested that those over 65 join the audience. We had no officers, no dues, and the church provided everything for us. ... Thankfully the group today perpetuates the glorious name even though it does not [perform in] St. George’s wonderful space.
— Henry Strouss

Thanks for Sharing Your SGCS Memories

For 200 years, St. George's Choral Society has made lasting impressions on those who have heard and sung with the choir.

Last week, we asked you to share #MySGCSMemory. This week, we are excited to share some submissions. It's not too late to send us your SGCS memory!

I sang with the choir for several seasons, during the period when Ken Dake was the choir director. We did a ‘Discovering Dvorak’ concert. At that time, the area by the church was being designated Dvorak Place. The ambassador from his native country attended our concert. My favorite memories were the Christmas concerts. Being surrounded by a human wall of sound, as we sang above the audience in such a beautiful setting. The decorations, the performers and of course, the immortal music. I will always think fondly of my time spent with St. George’s.
— Valerie Cruz

We can only continue creating musical memories with your support! Our fiscal year ends on July 31. Consider making a year-end donation today to support the choral memories of tomorrow.

One night we were rehearsing in St. George’s Chapel when a young woman walked in from outside, lay down on the floor, listened to the choir for a moment, then stood up and left. I guess we sounded good that evening!
— Johanna Goldberg
I have not attended a concert, but I have heard your lovely voices! My son has returned to his first love, choral music!! I am so happy for him, because it has brought him so much joy! He has progressed from children’s and youth church choirs to Wofford College Men’s Glee Club to, now, the prestigious St. George’s Choral Society!!! I am very proud of him and his love for music! Love from a happy mother in South Carolina.
— Billie Lou Liles

Share #MySGCS Memory

It's our 200th year and we want to hear from you!

Did you attend a memorable concert or event? Is there a rehearsal you will never forget? Tell us about it below or share it on social media using #MySGCSMemory.

We might share it on our website, Facebook page, or in a future email.

Name *

Attend a Summer Choral Festival Without Leaving New York City

Have you considered participating in our Summer Choral Festival? A new interview with Artistic Director Matthew Lewis by Vice President Claire Marinello answers all your questions about the Festival and gives insight into the process and repertoire:

Claire Marinello: How does the Summer Choral Festival work?

Matthew Lewis: Basically, it’s a way of attending a summer choir festival without leaving New York City. A sort of “staycation” for choral groupies. There are wonderful opportunities to leave New York to attend choir festivals, but this one allows people to continue their summer routine while participating in a two-week intensive workshop with a performance at the end.

For me, it started when we used to host “summer sings.” These were evenings when we would gather to read through a big choral piece, often with a guest conductor. The singers had so much fun, but often wished they could get to know the piece a bit better, allowing them to enjoy it more. So, we started this festival with that thought in mind. After four rehearsals, the singers know the piece better than they would with only one reading! Not to mention we have professional section leaders, which really helps. The result has been wonderful – an outstanding choral sound after only two weeks.

CM: This year’s program consists of Aaron Copland’s In the Beginning and Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom. Why did you choose those two pieces?

ML: We are in our bicentennial year, so I thought it would be great to pay homage to two American composers. Furthermore, since people enjoy singing so much, a program of unaccompanied music seemed due. Randall Thompson came to mind immediately, as one of the most significant American composers of choral music. The Peaceable Kingdom is a wonderful work, not performed very often, that I am certain singers and audience will enjoy. And, of course, Aaron Copland is one of the great American composers. His In the Beginning is a masterpiece for unaccompanied chorus with alto solo. The two share some similarities, but are varied enough to offer a great program.

I should also add that the Church of the Incarnation is a great space for a cappella music. The acoustic is warm for chamber music without being too distant. It’s not a cathedral acoustic, but one that allows the audience to hear what is going on with a warm acoustic enhancement.

Read more on >>

A 200th-anniversary Podcast

“There are people that stick with this choir. They keep coming back, it keeps growing, and I think it’s fascinating to be in a group that has been in existence for 200 years.”

So begins our new podcast, produced and narrated by Naomi Lewin, the former host of weekday afternoon music on WQXR, and of the podcast Conducting Business.

Listen to learn about the history of the group, hear from current members, and enjoy music from St. George’s Choral Society performances.