The Chorus was established 65 years ago with a very specific mission (from the Preamble to the Chorus Constitution):
The Philharmonic Chorus of Madison was formed in response to a growing conviction that there was room in Madison for another large mixed chorus devoted to high musical ideals and that there was need for a new group, autonomous in control and democratic in procedures, if the possibilities of civic music in Madison were to become realities.
We have remained true to that ideal since our enception, through nine directors and countless personnel changes. Since the summer of 1995 the Philharmonic Chorus has enjoyed the expertise of Dr. Patrick Gorman as director.
Sharing the love of choral music, members are admitted by audition and come from all walks of life; both "town and gown" meet in harmony. University faculty, staff, and students join with housewives, public school teachers, business people, and other Madison area residents. While some student members may sing only one or two years, many other members have belonged for more than 25 years.
We occasionally peform with piano (we did Johannes Brahms' Zigeunerliederin the Spring, 2013) or other instrumental forces, but we primarily sing the a cappella choral repertoire. The Chorus sings works from many countries and in many languages (at the 2013 Tudor Dinner Holiday Concerts we sang English, Hebrew, French, Polish, Latin, German, Chinese, and Church Slavonic). We perform works from the Russian Orthodox church, including Rachmaninoff's Vespers, sung in Russian.The repertoire presented in concert is thus varied and extensive. The Philharmonic has sung the masterpieces of Palestrina, Victoria, Di Lasso, Schütz, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, and many other classical composers, as well as modern and contemporary music by Hindemith, Dello Joio, Britten, Copland, Vaughan Williams, Alfred Burt, Edwin Fissinger, Francis Poulenc, John Tavener, Jean Berger, John Rutter, and others. The Chorus has always taken a special interest in folk music, not only American, but English, Irish, French, Slovak, Russian, Italian, African, and more.
The Chorus has been able to premier a number of works:
- The spring concert of 1949 featured Three Carducciana by Professor Oskar Hagen of the UW's Department of Art History.
- In 1958 the Chorus presented "A War Song to Englishmen" by Professor Robert Crane of the UW School of Music.
- In 1988, in honor of its 40th anniversary and Dr. Sam Jones's 25th anniversary as its director, the Chorus premiered "In Celebration of Music," a musical triptych by Dr. Edwin Fissinger.
- In 2007, in honor of its 60th anniversary, the Chorus premiered a commissioned work by Andrew Rindfleisch, "Veni Sancte Spiritus".
- In the past ten years the Chorus has premiered works by two of its members:
- Laird Marshall's "Is Not the Sky" premiered in the spring of 2008.
- J. Guy Stalnaker has had several premiers: "Let All Mortal Flesh (Picardy)" - Fall, 2008; "James Harris, or the Daemon Lover" - Spring, 2008; "Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (Ralph Vaughan Williams)" arranged for SATB Chorus and Wind Trio - Spring, 2010; "Song of a Second April" from A Year of Grace: Four Songs on Poems of the Seasons by Four Women Poets - Spring, 2014.
Chorus members have always recognized the obligation of social service to the community. They have sung Christmas music for hospitals and nursing homes and have presented several benefit concerts. In 1948 they sang at Wisconsin’s State Centennial. In 1970 they sang at the memorial service of Robert Fassnacht, the victim of the Sterling Hall bombing; Bob was a member of the Philharmonic. The Chorus has performed on WERN's "Live from the Elvejhem."
Through the years the Chorus has performed in other Wisconsin communities. As detailed on other pages, the Chorus became affiliated with the Tudor Dinner Holiday Concerts in 1972, which affiliation continues to this day. We enjoy very much being a part of the Tudor Tradition and look forward each year to seeing again people who have made the Tudor Dinners a famly tradition and to helping people begin a new tradition.
Joining with patrons, friends, and listeners, the Chorus always looks towards a fresh, rich future.