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.

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Sing With Us This June

Where will you be this June?

If your answer is "In New York City, wishing I were away at a choral festival," we have an opportunity for you.

Beginning Tuesday, June 6, we will host a two-week choral intensive, with two rehearsals a week, culminating in a free performance of Copland's "In the Beginning" and Thompson's "The Peaceable Kingdom" on Saturday, June 17 at 7:00 pm.

We want you to participate!

Never sung with us before? Apply online by May 22 for an early-bird discount.

Sung with us before? No need to fill out the application form. Pay by May 22 for an early-bird discount.

Can't sing in the Festival? We can't wait to see you at our free concert on June 17.

Click for more details, including rehearsal dates and costs.

A New Design for Our 200th Year

Andrew Spina © 2017

Andrew Spina © 2017

We're thrilled to ring in our 200th year with an updated logo, designed by Andrew Spina. This is one of several versions of our logo we will use in 2017. Here's how Spina describes the new look:

"The design is the first in a series of compositions celebrating our bicentennial. Each will express the tone of the program using organic forms from nature. The tenderness and harmony of the fresh green foliage of tulips gives way to the joy of transfiguration."

This logo ties into our Spring 2017 concert of Dvorak's Stabat Mater on April 20. Learn more and buy tickets online.

The clock is ticking…our 200th anniversary is almost here

In 1817, St. George’s Choral Society was founded as the choir of St. George’s Church.

In 1894, the choir made history when Harry T. Burleigh, the great spiritual performer, composer, and arranger, became the first African-American to sing with the choir of a white church.

Burleigh in St. George's Choral Society robes in 1894. In Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance. News item in Southwestern Christian Advocate (New Orleans, Louisiana, Thursday, July 12, 1894; pg. 6, issue 28).

Today, St. George’s Choral Society—no longer religiously affiliated—looks to celebrate our history and welcome our future as we move into our 200th year.

Help St. George’s Choral Society strengthen our work enriching lives through the universal and transformative power of music. Make a year-end gift today.

Your gift makes a difference, no matter the size.

Notes on Our Program



Our first concert of the season is this Sunday, November 20, at 3 pm at the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th St. Tickets are $30 online and at the door.

To get you in the mood for the music, enjoy our program notes:

“When We Were” is a song poem for choir, organ, cello and soprano. It is in three parts: "Then," "Now," and "When.” Each part consists of distinct roles: the nostalgic chorale reminisces memories; a solo cello emulates the voice of the present reality, and conscience; the organ records the passing of time; and a solo soprano invokes innocence and hope.

The text is driven by fragments from a poem that my grandfather, Dr. Dong Whan Lee, wrote shortly after the Korean War in ancient Chinese calligraphy—one in a collection of 86 poems translated and published in Korean titled “Field of Tea/Snowy Mountain/Spring Mountain.” This text depicts the devastation and displacement that war leaves behind, time unwarranted. These fragments are sung in Korean, written out phonetically in English for the choir.

In the eight minutes of the piece, the music pushes and pulls in and out of the feeling of the present and past, eventually letting go completely. This is depicted in the ascending line of the cello harmonics, which disappear on a high “E” tremolo, closing the piece.

The chorus holds onto the key of D minor while the organ counterpoints a dissonant B minor stubbornly against it. The cello lives in a sound bubble of five notes C, D, E, F# and Bb. Much like Messiaen, inspiration was found in the birds that would sing me awake at dawn. A rhythmic notation unveiled itself, working its way into the solo cello. In the “Now” middle section, the choir blows through organ pipes and sings articulated percussive sounds which collectively mimic a sense of the rustling of the leaves and wind blowing through the trees.

One of the many discoveries in writing this piece was that my grandmother was a church organist. This is how my grandfather met her. My mother, Moon Hie, the youngest of six children, grew up to be a soprano and sang in church when my sister, brother, and I were growing up.

I am especially grateful to Christine Kim, my beautiful and talented sister, who is playing this premiere performance on solo cello at the invitation of Artistic Director Dr. Matthew Lewis.

Unintentionally, this has become a deeply personal piece. My hope is that it might resonate with you in a personal way too, providing needed solace, strength, and peace—a respect for the fragility of life.

My dear friend Joanne Cheung, who took on the task of translating this poem, found in reaching out to her grandfather for guidance in translating, that he had fought in the Korean War. He currently resides in Los Angeles where my grandfather also lived.      Pauline Kim Harris

Argentinian composer Alberto Evartisto Ginastera (1916-1983) is considered one of the most important composers of the Americas. He wrote Psalm 150 in 1938 and the world premiere was in Buenos Aires in 1945. The North American premiere was given in 1968 by the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy conducting. This colorful work employs several interesting composition techniques, most notably polytonality, while some sections refer to Renaissance polyphony. A serene Alleluia grows into an outburst of joy, concluding the work.

Jean Berger (1909-2002) is known primarily as a pianist and composer of choral music. He was born Arthur Scholssberg into a German Jewish family. He moved to Paris in 1933, after the Nazis took power, changing his name to Jean Berger. He eventually moved to the United States where he established himself as a college educator. His Brazilian Psalm is an extended a cappella work, rarely performed in its entirety. An interesting mix of harmonic styles, it eventually settles into an Alleluia which concludes the piece.

The Missa Brevis of Zoltán Kodály is a tour-de-force—colorful, expressive, exuberant, and energetic, this is a masterpiece of the choral literature. Kodály (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer and ethnomusicologist. In addition to his many compositions, he is known as the founder of the Kodály Method, an approach to music education. The original version of the Missa Brevis is the one heard today, scored for organ, chorus, and soloists. He later orchestrated the piece. Kodály remained in Hungary during the Nazi occupation. Amid the chaos of war, during which the Red Army eventually overcame the German forces in Budapest, he took refuge in the Opera House. During repeated bombings of the city, he finished a composition he had started years earlier: this very Mass setting. Amazing that in the middle of such chaos, such beauty emerged! 

Every Night I Walk Home Singing

Rehearsals for our Fall 2016 concert began this past Wednesday, September 7. Our new and returning members arrived excited to learn the repertoire for our November 20 concert: Berger’s Brazilian Psalm (to be sung by auditioned chamber singers); Ginastera’s Psalm 150; Kodály’s Missa Brevis; and “When We Were,” a commissioned work by Pauline Kim Harris for choir, organ, cello, and soprano.

Artistic Director Matthew Lewis and the choir at the first rehearsal of the 2016–2017 season.

I asked several members what they enjoy about singing with St. George’s Choral Society. Here are their replies:

“What I like the most about singing with St. George's Choral Society: [Artistic Director] Matthew [Lewis] and my fellow soprano ones! He never gives up on us and is always challenging us to be better, and they understand that the struggle is real but the result is sweeter.” – Blessing Agunwamba, Soprano

“I've been in St. George's Choral Society since 2008, and I treasure my time singing with the group. Taking my mind off of work and singing beautiful music every week with wonderful people is really a pleasure. I look forward to every rehearsal!” – Zac Rider, Bass

“I am so happy to be back after a taking a break last season! Singing with St. George’s Choral Society is a pure joy. The music is beautiful and well chosen and it's exciting to work with professionals, like Matthew and our ringers. But the best parts are that our choir has its own eccentric character, our director has a hilarious sense of humor, and we have fun learning complex pieces and lifting our voices together. Choir practice has a way of putting every thing else in perspective. Every night I walk home singing.” – Cara Hoffman, Soprano

It isn’t too late to join these members and sing with the choir. Contact to schedule an audition.

If you can’t sing with us this fall, we hope to see you at our first concert of the season on November 20 at 3 pm at the Church of the Incarnation, 209 Madison Avenue at 35th Street.

Sing With Us!

Rehearsals for our Fall 2016 concert begin on September 7. We want you to sing with us! 

We will hold rehearsals 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 features works by three outstanding 20th-century composers, Jean Berger, Alberto Ginastera, and Zoltán Kodály, along with a commissioned work by Pauline Kim Harris. Learn more about our entire season.

Want to sing with us for the first time? We will hold auditions for all voice parts on September 7 and 14, just prior to the start of rehearsal. 

If you are singing with for the first time, or if you are a returning singer, please let us know that you will be singing no later than August 26. We want to make sure we order sufficient music.

Click the appropriate image below to contact us:

Announcing Our 2016–2017 Season

Two hundred years of choral music! 

Our bicentennial celebration begins this season. I'm so excited to be part of this with you! Join us in September as we start rehearsals. We welcome new members—contact to set up an audition.

Fall Concert with Organ
November 20, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Berger: Brazilian Psalm (Chamber Singers)
Ginastera: Psalm 150
Kodály: Missa Brevis
Pauline Kim Harris: Commissioned work for chorus, organ, and cello

This program features works by three outstanding 20th-century composers of choral music, Jean Berger, Alberto Ginastera, and Zoltán Kodály. Berger’s unaccompanied Brazilian Psalm is rarely performed in its entirety (the concluding "Alleluia" is a frequent encore piece). Ginastera’s setting of Psalm 150 is a perfect match for St. George's Choral Society, as it requires the forces of a large, symphonic choir and features polytonal techniques. Along with the Kodály Missa Brevis, the three pieces make a stunning and intriguing concert program. Pauline Kim Harris, with her husband Conrad Harris, is a member of String Noise. Pauline’s sensitivity to all forms of music and performance make this commission particularly exciting. She will combine conventional techniques with very new ones, resulting in a work that is captivating for both the performers and the audience.

Spring Concert with Orchestra
April 30, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Dvořák: Stabat Mater, opus 58

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 Dvořák's Stabat Mater, a piece that has earned its place among the monuments of choral repertoire. For full orchestra, large chorus, and soloists, it is a fitting beginning to St. George’s Choral Society's bicentennial year.

Summer Choral Festival: American ‘A Capella’
June 17, 2017 at 7:00 pm

Copland: In the Beginning
Thompson: The Peaceable Kingdom

The Summer Choral Festival concert is a completely unaccompanied program of two American composers: Aaron Copland and Randall Thompson. Choral singers are familiar with both composers, and this is a rare opportunity to sing two of their masterpieces for choir. Copland's In the Beginning draws its text from the book of Genesis, and is scored for four-part chorus and mezzo-soprano soloist. Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom is inspired by an Edward Hicks painting. Composed in 1936, it is made up of eight sacred movements. St. George’s Choral Society pays tribute to these composers in its bicentennial celebration.