The Newburyport Choral Society (NCS) traces its roots back to 1934, when organist and choirmaster Clifton Lunt established the Newburyport Choral Singers (later changed to Society) by combining his small Amesbury Choral Society with Newburyport volunteers. In the spring of 1935, this group gave its first concert in Newburyport City Hall, continuing a tradition in Newburyport dating back to 1848 when the first community chorus was formed. Lunt continued as Music Director for the next 27 years until he relinquished his baton in 1961. After his retirement NCS continued under the direction of seven subsequent directors until the arrival of Dr. Gerald Weale in 1986.
The arrival of Dr. Weale heralded a quantum leap forward in NCS professionalism and performance quality. When he took the helm of the Society, Dr. Weale was a music professor at Boston University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Music Education and Director of the Boston University Musical Organizations at the College of Fine Arts. He exposed NCS singers to more challenging choral works and raised the bar for what was expected both at rehearsals and in performance. Under his leadership, NCS set itself apart from other area community choruses by contracting with professional orchestra musicians and soloists for its performances. That, coupled with a broad, rich repertoire of choral music, including many of the great choral masterpieces, gave local audiences access to quality performances equivalent to those available in Boston.
NCS’ next chapter began in 2014 when Dr. George Case assumed the mantle of NCS Music Director. Dr. Case is the Director of Choral Activities at the Boston Conservatory where he directs the choral ensembles, teaches Choral Literature, and directs the graduate choral conducting program. He holds Doctoral and Master’s degrees in conducting from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Boston University. Through his varied experience as an award-winning educator of young musicians, a highly skilled choral conductor, the director of a graduate choral conducting program, and as a professional soloist, Dr. Case has brought vibrant leadership and teaching skills to NCS. He has expanded the musical horizons of both NCS singers and concert goers alike.
Over its long history NCS has contributed to the creation of new musical masterpieces with its commissions of two oratorios by composer Marjorie Merryman. As a celebration of NCS’ 60th Anniversary in the spring of 1995, NCS premiered Jonah which symbolized the North Shore’s seafaring history. Since its debut, this work has been performed by choral groups across the country. In 2000 NCS premiered Ms. Merryman’s One Blood, an oratorio for chorus and orchestra about the historic Deerfield Massacre and its aftermath.
In 1995, NCS was the first organization to receive Newburyport’s “Mayor’s Award for the Arts” in recognition of the Society’s performance excellence and many years of musical service to Newburyport and the surrounding communities. As part of its history, NCS members also completed three European tours through Eastern Europe, Italy and France . Whether singing in the choir lofts above the altar in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, with the Benedictine monks of Mont-Saint-Michel, or to cheering audiences across France, NCS singers proudly represented the Greater Newburyport communities. In June 2015, 19 NCS members joined singers from nine other choral groups from the U.S. and Europe to perform the Duruflé Requiem at NY City’s Hall.
NCS’ history is powerful and expansive in the scope and variety of music it has performed. Its greatest achievement, however, has been to sustain for more than 80 years its contribution to the cultural life of the Greater Newburyport Area. – to continue through all economic times to offer local audiences the opportunity to hear the masterpieces of choral music with professional orchestra and soloists at affordable ticket prices with discounts offered to high school students and seniors. The exceptional quality of NCS concerts has and will always spring from the single common bond shared by all of its members — a love of singing great works of art and sharing the joy of music with community audiences.