CHORAL ARTS SOCIETY OF FREDERICK – A BRIEF HISTORY
By member and historian: Marcia Walker
Monday Morning Musicals. The Frederick County Choral Society. Frederick Singers. CHORAL ARTS SOCIETY OF FREDERICK. This enduring musical group with many names has a long history in Frederick.
CASF, like any organization made up of volunteers, faces challenges in record keeping as people die, files get moved from place to place, and papers get lost. Even so, we are fortunate to know quite a bit about the history of the choir. As we continue to celebrate over 75 years as a performing arts group, what we are really celebrating is an even longer history of the musical arts in Frederick County.
Our lore has always said that the choir evolved from a group founded in 1925 called the Monday Morning Musicals. This organization was started by civic-minded area residents, interested in the arts, who met in the homes of members to study and appreciate classical music and perform for each other. Whether it was a musical instrument, a voice offering, or a recitation, most members presented a work at each meeting. It is from The Monday Morning Musicals that the CHORAL ARTS SOCIETY OF FREDERICK was born.
It is believed that in 1943 some of these members met to discuss the idea of forming a separate choral group, which late in 1944 as The Frederick County Choral Society. A rehearsal was held on January 28, 1945, in Winchester Hall, under the direction of Mr. W.H Yarrow, and was very well-attended. Mr. Yarrow expressed that he was “highly pleased” with the response of the public to the new choral society. He also commented on the high quality of singers who had joined the organization, and the musical progress already made. The society offered an interesting educational and social opportunity for
those residents of Frederick County who were lovers of music and who desired to sing in an accomplished choral organization, under the direction of an individual whose long and successful experience with large choral groups had won wide recognition at the time. No one needed previous experience in singing to join this choir. All that was required was the desire to sing and the will to adhere to serious training. According to an article in the Frederick News Post, “the civic-minded residents of Frederick County are backing the new choral society and feel that it fills a real musical need in the
county.” The program outlined for the newly formed choir included a concert that spring and participation in the city’s bicentennial celebration the following fall. The group also wanted to plan a summer outing and have frequent informal concerts for its members.
From 1945 through 1958 the Monday Morning Musicals continued to meet. While it has been difficult to find specific information about The Frederick County Choral Society during that time period, there is evidence that the group continued through the support of the Monday Morning Musicals. In the 1940s the chorus was 80 members strong, but by the late 1950s the membership had dropped to 12 singers who gathered together to sing madrigals and motets.
In the fall of 1960, Charles Warner, chairman of the music department at Hood College, along with caring musicians from the Frederick County Choral Society, many of whom had also been involved with the Monday Morning Musicals, gathered a group of talented singers from the community. In an effort to have a livelier name, this new group was called the Frederick Singers. Warner and the singers prepared a program that was performed at the Rotary Club’s Christmas party. In 1961 the group started Tuesday evening rehearsals at Calvary United Methodist Church.
A 1963 article in the Frederick News Post contained a story about the Frederick Singers:
In their relatively short career and under the direction of Dr. Charles Warner, The
Frederick Singers have established themselves as a remarkably well-disciplined and balanced group of voices. They have, under the exacting influence of their director, maintained a high standard of excellence in repertoire as well as performance. They are the only group of this particular kind now singing in Frederick. Although the group has been well supported by musical circles in Frederick it is hoped that their concert on Saturday will bring an even larger attendance of Fredericktonians interested in encouraging live and stimulating performances by Frederick’s impressive group of talented vocalists.
Unfortunately, public apathy and the choir’s failure to meet a budget forced the Frederick Singers to dissolve and become part of the Frederick County Adult Education Program in the fall of 1965. Rallying under a new program and new leadership, they began meeting at Frederick Junior High School on Monday evenings. Under the direction of Eugene Miller, the choir grew to 60 members. The objectives of the group were to offer the opportunity to sing music representing all periods of musical history, to learn vocal techniques that would create better singers, and also to further the development of choral repertoire. Members of this non-auditioned group also hoped to improve sight-reading and learn the importance of singing musically. They wished to perform music for the community that would be culturally challenging, while musically and intellectually satisfying.
In 1985 the group officially changed its name from the Frederick Singers to THE CHORAL ARTS SOCIETY OF FREDERICK. Eventually the choir was combined with the Frederick Community College Choral Ensemble, to create a unique choral group that blends community members and students. Since 1960 there have been eleven directors of CASF: Dr. Charles Warner, Eugene Miller, Thomas Silliman, Nancy Roblin, David Crawford, Judy Dubose, William Kelly, Catherine Porter Borden, Joseph Choi, Regina Carlow, and Lynn Staininger.
We have been honored to have our current director with us since 2004. Under the amazing leadership of Lynn Staininger, the group has soared to new heights, both musically and in public stature. Community members and college students alike who desire to sing and perform have an opportunity to perform musical genres from Bach to Rock. In addition to preparing 2-3 concerts per season, we have joined with other performing arts groups such as the Hood College Choir, the Frederick Symphony
Orchestra, and the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. We have participated in choral festivals in Paris, Salzburg, and Dublin.
As we begin our next 75 years, CASF continues to be “passionately dedicated to cultivating a vibrant, inclusive, multi-generational community through the study and performance of quality choral music.”