During the Fall of 1976, Lucille Horton, then a Math teacher at Monticello High School, heard a rumor the High School Choral Director, Martin Banner was interested in starting a community chorus. She approached him one morning and said, “I’m excited about this chorus you’d like to start.” He replied, “Great, and I hear you’re an alto.” “That too, but I would like to be the accompanist if you need one.” He accepted her offer and hence The Sullivan County Community Chorus began.
Two concerts a year were planned, with the one in the Spring accompanied by orchestra. They purchased music and paid expenses with dues of $5 per member, donations, and ads purchased for the concert programs.
The chorus subsequently incorporated as a non-profit organization during 1978, so donations would be tax-exempt and the chorus received their first Decentralization grant, administered by the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance. Marty was hired by the Sullivan County Community College as an adjunct professor, and provided rehearsal space. Up until this time rehearsals were held at Monticello High School.
Marty spent some time in Europe, discovering many forgotten choral works by Baroque composers, leaving little time to devote to the chorus, and subsequently resigned as conductor after over ten years. In 1988, David Tcimpidis became the conductor, and rehearsals were moved to the Liberty United Methodist Church. The Chorus continued to perform two concerts each year at local churches and at the College.
In 1990, William Halbert served as conductor for one semester. At the time, he was organist-choir director at the First Church of Monticello-Presbyterian. William Halbert moved from the area and Jean Webster, a resident of Grahamsville serving as the President of the chorus, quickly recruited Cheryl Koch, a music teacher at Tri-Valley High School, to take over leadership of the group. Rehearsals returned to the College, and two years of outstanding performances followed. Chorus membership grew to 45, and dues increased to $10 a semester. Cheryl subsequently moved west, again leaving the chorus without a conductor.
Michael Williams, a music teacher at Liberty High School, agreed to conduct in 1995. In May of 1995, the concert was dedicated in loving memory of Betty Walter, following her tragic death at a young age. Betty’s glorious soprano voice had been a highlight at our concerts. Mike’s workload and family commitments had become heavy, and he could not continue directing. The chorus auditioned five candidates and only one met the criteria. After accepting the position, the recipient withdrew at the last minute, leaving the chorus without a conductor for our Spring 1996 concert. The group was stuck and did not know what to do. Lucille Horton, accompanist and silent supporter for all these years, volunteered to fill in. We performed a concert version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial y Jury,” presenting two very lighthearted performances.
After that semester, Lucille knew that something had to be done. Lucille had heard Chuck Matz had retired and relocated to Cragsmoor. Back in the fifties, Chuck had taught music at the Tri-Valley School in Grahamsville, while Lucille was teaching math. They were friends at the time. Lucille was impressed by his energy and vivacity, and by the high quality of music which his choir was inspired to sing. What a great day it was when Dr. Chuck Matz agreed to become conductor of the Sullivan County Community Chorus! For nine years, the chorus improved under his direction.
When Chuck decided to “fully retire” and spend more time traveling the country to visit his family, the chorus looked within to find a replacement. In the spring of 2005, Kevin Giroux, choral director at Tri-Valley Central agreed to conduct the ensemble after having been a member while Chuck was directing. Unfortunately, Kevin’s school life became too busy for him to continue as director, and he was only with us for one semester.
After Kevin’s departure, David Trombley, choral director at Ellenville High School agreed to take over the reins. David was well known in the Monticello community as an outstanding solo artist, private studio teacher, and former music teacher at the Monticello Middle School. David had been a member of the Chorus, and it was clear he was the right man for the job! For five years David was the director, and the chorus performed marvelously!
After David’s departure, a phone call from Lou Setren, a tenor in the chorus, and our current president, tugged at the heart (and guilt) strings of Kevin Giroux. Kevin agreed to come back in the Winter of 2010. In the Spring of 2011, Kevin brought in Adam Barley from Hankins as co-conductor. Concert attendance had been getting so large; there was no longer adequate room or parking for everyone at the First Church of Monticello Presbyterian. The decision was made to move concerts to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Woodbourne, where parking and performance space were of the highest degree! We also acquired choral risers from the Neversink Agricultural Society, which Kevin had previously used at Tri-Valley before new ones were purchased. Adam was only able to serve us as a conductor for one semester, but joined us the following season as a chorus member.
During this same period, Lucille Horton advised the Chorus Board she would like to lighten the incredible load of responsibilities she had carried for the Chorus for so many years. Keira Weyant, who had shared her wonderful talents singing in the Alto section and acting as co-accompanist, became our full-time accompanist. Keira has ably met the standard set by Lucille as accompanist and member of the Chorus Board. We are very fortunate and thankful for both the skill, input and enthusiasm Keira shares and that Lucille has continued as “Advisor Emeritus” to the Chorus Board
In the Fall of 2011, the chorus was truly blessed when Harvey and Eileen Krieger of Woodridge donated a grand piano for use at concerts. This wonderful gift will help the chorus continue to make lovely music to share with Sullivan County. The chorus is forever in their debt!
Obviously, the chorus has come a long way since 1976. There is always room for more people who want to learn and to share their love of music with others. As the chorus continues to celebrate our continued good fortune and love of choral performance, our members would like to acknowledge their biggest supporters, YOU!