The Festival Chorus shares its talents both locally and globally
In 1965, Paul Reichenbacher and several civic leaders from Elk Grove Village planned a Thanksgiving ecumenical service. Choirs from participating churches joined at the conclusion of the service to sing a closing hymn.
Father Ward Morrison of Queen of the Rosary Parish, Elk Grove Village, asked his choir director, Anthony Mostardo, to choose an appropriate hymn and direct the combined choirs. He chose "One God," arranged by Fred Waring. Out of these auspicious beginnings, The Festival Chorus was born.
The newly formed group of 35-40 singers, conducted by Mostardo, adopted the name Elk Grove Festival Chorus. Their premiere performance took place at the dedication and opening ceremony of Elk Grove High School.
In 1968, Dr. George Makas, who was head of the music department at Harper College, approached Mostardo to affiliate the chorus with the college. The chorus changed its name to the Festival/Harper College Community Chorus. Its conductor continued to be Mostardo.
In the many years since it was formed, The Festival Chorus, as it is now called, has benefitted from the talents of four directors. In 1997, Mostardo retired. His 32 years of dedication and love for music made an indelible mark on the chorus.
Edwin Kemp, a member of the chorus who was also assistant director, became the new conductor. In 2010, Kemp retired and handed the baton to Ann Espel. In 2016, she handed it to Gregory Tipps, who is the current director. His assistant director is Sarah Inendino.
The Festival Chorus has taken its talents on tour many times in the more than 50 years it has been in existence. In 1979, the chorus traveled to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
The chorus returned to Italy in 1986, and a third tour took place in 1988 when the chorus traveled to Switzerland, Austria and Yugoslavia. Participation in the International Festival of Music in Coventry, England, along with concerts in Scotland, York, Hull, and London highlighted a trip taken in 1992.
A fifth tour in the summer of 1995 took the chorus to several Scandinavian countries, and the sixth tour found a dedicated band of choral members performing in Canada during the summer of 2001. July of 2004 found the chorus singing in Ireland, and in 2011 the chorus took the stage at Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World.
England, Scotland and Wales greeted the chorus in 2014, and it was well received by the Czech Republic, Austria and Northern Italy in 2018. Plans for a 2020 summer trip to Holland, Flanders, Normandy and Paris are being rescheduled for 2021.
With help from Mark Larsen, The Festival Chorus adopted a logo with multiple figures in a row, symbolizing community and togetherness. The chorus could add excellence into that message.
All singers who wish to be in the chorus are welcomed. There are no auditions, only voice placements to ensure that singers are placed in the right section.
The Festival Chorus is a not-for-profit organization. Each year the chorus has two fundraisers, one in the fall and one in spring. There will be a Trivia Night Oct. 24. The second will take place sometime the following spring.
Money from these activities, and partial support by the Illinois Arts Council, assures that the conductors, rehearsal accompanist, orchestra and professional vocal soloists are paid.
Each year, The Festival Chorus presents a Holiday Concert the first Sunday in December and a Spring Concert the first Sunday in May at the Harper College Performing Arts Center. Each of these is accompanied by a professional orchestra.
On the evening following each of these, the chorus performs selected items in a shortened concert at The Lutheran Home for the Aged in Arlington Heights. Beverly Tipps accompanies the singers on piano.
Another popular community event is the choral singing of the national anthem at a Boomers baseball game each summer.
The chorus normally meets Mondays from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in Building P, Room 202, at Harper College, 1200 W. Algonquin Road, Palatine, to rehearse the chosen music. Unfortunately, this year's May 3 Spring Concert and all preparatory rehearsals were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Planning for the 2020 Holiday Concert, scheduled for Dec. 6, is already taking place, so the current chorus of 84 singers can resume its regular activities when safe to do so.
Anyone interested in joining this group should check for details at www.festivalchorus.org or visit The Festival Chorus on Facebook.
The words of The Festival Chorus Mission Statement complement its logo nicely:
ENRICH the musical lives of our members and the local community.
INSPIRE excellence in choral music through live performances.
EDUCATE our members and the audience and obtain their support.
And, as any chorus member will tell you, every new performance will be "the best concert ever!"