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History

Biography

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir is proud to be one of the nation’s most established and dynamic musical institutions and 2016/2017 marks its 80th Anniversary Season. Among the most active symphonic choruses in the United States, this organization reaches in excess of 25,000 persons each season with more than 25 performances and a comprehensive educational/outreach program. The approximately 200 volunteer singers demonstrate the Choir’s commitment to musical excellence through their talent and dedication during each forty-four-week season. The organization is led by a professional staff and governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.

The Symphonic Choir is the choral partner of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, having been founded in 1937 at the Orchestra’s request to perform the great choral-orchestral repertoire. Over the years, this partnership with the ISO has remained at the very core of the Choir’s existence. This partnership exhibits the very best of collaborative ideals–two successfully independent arts organizations combining their strengths to create beautifully lasting musical results.

In addition to collaborative performances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonic Choir presents its own performances, educational initiatives and events each season. Regular features include the Sacred Masterworks concert series, which includes large-scale choral-orchestral performances that are complemented by an array of educational events. Recent repertoire featured on that series includes Britten’s War Requiem, Bach’s B Minor Mass, Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts (Requiem), Mendelssohn’s Elijah and others. The Symphonic Choir also produces the ever-popular annual holiday favorite Festival of Carols, which features the Choir in performance with orchestra, special guests at the enchanting Scottish Rite Cathedral and The Palladium at The Center for The Performing Arts. This season marks the 25th anniversary of theis musical holiday tradition. Additionally, the Symphonic Choir presents the Sacred Arts series, an innovative Sacred Arts performance experience in collaboration with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Celebration Gospel Festival, and a cabaret series titled Mood Indigo that has sold-out each year since inception.

The Symphonic Choir is committed to providing world-class educational experiences to persons of all ages throughout the community. The Choir is now in its sixth year as the official choral partner of the Indianapolis Public Schools through the Harmony of Voices initiative, providing teacher training, educational resources, mobile performance experiences, master classes with world-class guest artists, and subsidized tickets for students, their family and teachers alike. The Spotlight Choir series unites area middle and high school choirs with the Symphonic Choir in a side-by-side rehearsal and performance opportunity, providing intergenerational learning experiences. Other educational initiatives include In-Choir-ing Minds, a lecture-performance featuring a choral masterwork; the Choral Colloquium, which provides scholarly exploration and discussion via the Choir’s Scholar-in-Residence; Roundtables for choir directors from area schools, universities, congregations and community ensembles; student conducting workshops and Hallelujah – What’s it to ya!?, an engaging look at Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” Additionally, the Choir recognizes that persons of all ages deserve access to the arts and Timeless in Song serves the Circle City’s senior population through mobile performances, transportation assistance and subsidized concert tickets. The Symphonic Choir was pleased to partner with the Indianapolis Public Schools to re-imagine and resurrect the All-City Honor Choir in 2014, serving students from all 8 IPS high schools.

Commissioning new works is critical to the Choir’s mission, and recent years have seen numerous commissioned works added to the body of choral repertoire. In 2009, the organization launched the international Christmas Carol Commission Competition, which encourages emerging composers to write high-quality choral music. Recently, the Symphonic Choir led a three-year city-wide commissioning consortium which culminated with the April 2015 performance of a new oratorio titled Zabur by noted composer Mohammed Fairouz.

Through the Choir’s Recording Fund, the organization frequently releases audio recordings including the complete, two-disc recording of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, From East to West: A Festival of Carols and the most recent recording release, “The Very Best of Festival of Carols.” Discrography is available through this website and on iTunes. The Choir was featured at the Super Bowl XLVI half time performance with Madonna, and is heard on Sirius-XM Radio.

The Indianapolis Symphonic Choir will perform at Carnegie Hall (New York City) in October 2016, and the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.) in April 2018.

Throughout its history spanning three-quarters of a century, the Symphonic Choir has been served by leaders in the choral art, including music directors Elmer Steffen, Don Neuen, Charles Webb, John W. Williams, and Robert Porco, and has given performances around the world. The Symphonic Choir is under the artistic direction of Dr. Eric Stark and is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, in residence at Butler University’s Jordan College of the Arts, Indianapolis.