Chorus History

The Philharmonic Chorus, 1946 to date

When the Philharmonic Chorus was organized in July, 1946, with the temporary name of The New Madison Choral Society, it had no regular director, no money, no reputation, and no concert schedule; it did have eight determined singers who saw a need for an independent community chorus, one that was self governing and self supporting.

The organizing director was Dr. Kunrad Kvam, who soon thereafter left the Madison area. When The Philharmonic Chorus of Madison became a permanent organization (with its new name) of some eighty members in the fall of 1946, Professor Bjornar Bergethon, director of the University Men's Chorus, became its first regular director. Rehearsals were Monday evenings at the YMCA. Professor Bergethon conducted the Chorus in its debut concert on Sunday, February 16, 1947, in the auditorium of the First Congregational Church.

Being self governing was a fundamental issue for the Philharmonic founders; they wanted a chorus that was not "an extension of a vocational school class." They also believed there was a place in Madison for a group that specialized in a variety of a cappella music and short compositions requiring only light accompaniment, a group that utilized local soloists and fostered music among community youth.

Being self supporting, not tax supported, was another major issue for the organizers, depending upon the voluntary support of members, concert goers, advertisers and patrons. In 1951 the Chorus became the beneficiary of a gift from the bequest of Professor Frederick Austin Ogg, distinguished professor of the University of Wisconsin's Department of Political Science. A few years later an anonymous benefactor provided another generous gift. For many years the spring concert has been free to the public, so patron support has become increasingly important. Another source of income since 1972 has been the opportunity to provide music for the annual Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts at Wisconsin Memorial Union's Great Hall.

More information about Three Carducciana by Oskar Hagen

In 1948, only two years after the Philharmonic Chorus was organized, Oskar Hagen, professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote this choral collection which was dedicated to Dr. Bjornar Bergethon and the Philharmonic Chorus of Madison. Professor Hagen was a gifted man. Llewellyn Pfankuchen, professor emeritus of the political science department and former "Philly," says that Oskar Hagen was the art history department at the time.

Oskar Hagen was born on October 14, 1888, at Wiesbaden, Germany. He received his doctorate from the University of Halle and subsequently became professor of art history at the University of Goettingen. As Carl Schurz visiting professor, he came to Wisconsin, where his unique talents and impressive accomplishments gained him an invitation to stay. In 1925 Professor Hagen established the Department of Art History and served as its chairman for 22 years.

Being more than an art historian in the strictest sense, Oskar Hagen loved music. It was love of this art form that led him, while still in Germany, to the revival of the operas of George Frederick Handel and their adaptation for the modern musical stage. For this outstanding contribution to the world of music he was honored many times, most notably by election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art, London, in 1937. In later years he turned to musical composition and from this creative effort came the "Concerto Grosso," "Choral Rhapsody," "Wisconsin Summer," and other works honored in their performance by both American and European musical organizations.

Professor Hagen was the author of a great number of art history books, among them Art Epochs and Their Leaders, The Birth of the American Tradition, and Patterns and Principles of Spanish Art. At the time of his death, October 5, 1957, he was working on a manuscript for Art History of the Theater. (Speaking of theatre, his daughter is actress Uta Hagen.)

Three Carducciana is a collection of three poems by Giosue Carducci (1835-1907), who was professor of literary history at the University of Bologna. In 1906 Carducci won the Nobel Prize "not only in recognition of his wide learning and critical research, but also as a tribute to the vitality and lyrical grace that distinguish his poetic masterpieces." The three Carducci poems that Oskar Hagen chose were "Maggiolata" ("May Song"), "Serenata" ("Evening Greeting"), and "Mattinata" ("Morning Greeting").

The Philharmonic Chorus performed Three Carducciana as part of its spring concert in May of 1949. A reception was held in the Waubesa Room at the Park Hotel honoring Mr. and Mrs. Hagen and Mr. and Mrs. Bjornar Bergethon. This was the last concert "Bergie" would direct, for Dr. and Mrs. Bergethon moved to Ridgewood, N.J., the following summer. On June 7th, 40 members selected by Dr. Bergethon (to obtain the best possible blending of voices and balance of parts) worked with him for two hours on the difficult spots of the Three Carducciana and then broadcast it over station WHA-FM. As part of the program Professor Hagen read the English translation of the text of each of the three numbers before it was sung. A recording was made of the program as it was broadcast; the Philharmonic Chorus library has the recording as does Mills Music Library of the University of Wisconsin.

NB: This text is based on the article by Marie LaFontaine from the March 29, 1988, edition of Demi Semi Quavers, the newsletter of the Philharmonic Chorus.

Directors of the Philharmonic Chorus, 1946 to date

	A. Kunrad Kvam
		Originally director of the Madison Civic Chorus
		Organizing director, July, 1946

	Bjornar Bergethon
		UW Madison School of Music
		1946 – 1949

	Robert G. Petzold
		UW Madison School of Music
		1949 – 1952

	Bernhardt H. Westlund
		Chairman, Department of Music
		Milton College
		1952 – 1960

	Samuel M. Jones
		UW Madison School of Music
		1960 – 1961

	Michael B. Petrovich
		UW Madison Department of History
		1961 – 1963

	Samuel M. Jones
		UW Madison School of Music
		1963 – 1966

	Vance Y. George
		UW Madison School of Music
		1966 - 1967

	Samuel M. Jones
		UW Madison School of Music
		1967 – 1994

	Margaret H. Hadley (Interim Director)
		Music Department
		Madison West High School
		Spring, 1995

	Patrick Gorman
		Diocese of Madison
		Fall, 1995 -- Present

A brief history of the Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts

In 1972, the first year The Philharmonic Chorus of Madison performed the Tudor Dinner Concerts, alto Marie Ellingson prepared a history of the Tudor programs by beginning with the following text written by Mrs. Raymond Dvorak and printed in a 1967 Tudor Singers dinner program:


The Tudor Singers were organized in October of 1933 as a social group singing for fun. Eight students in the University of Wisconsin School of Music led by Florence Hunt (Mrs. Raymond Dvorak) and Katharine Lee (Mrs. Edward Schantz) asked the late Professor Edgar B. Gordon to be their leader. The name Tudor Singers was chosen because they wanted to sing madrigals of the Tudor period. The original intention of the group was not to give public performances, but they were persuaded to sing a Christmas program at the University Club and a week later at the Wisconsin Union in December, 1933.

Since that time, the group has annually presented the Tudor Dinner Concert in December as well as concerts of non-seasonal repertoire throughout the year. Professor Gordon was the beloved director until 1959 when Professor J. Russell Paxton took over the leadership. In 1962 the Tudor Singers became a student group as a School of Music course for credit. Since 1965 when Professor Paxton retired, their director has been Mr. Vance George. Under Mr. George’s direction the group has performed Chamber Music from all periods. This year the Tudor Singers for the first time recreate the atmosphere of a banquet in Tudor England with the addition of period costumes through the generous cooperation of Wisconsin Players.

The spirit, imagination, love of music, and performances of Tudor Singers 1967 is a continuum of Tudor Singers of 1933.

Marie Ellingson continues by saying that after Vance George departed from Madison, the 1971 Tudor Dinners were under the direction of Mr. Lawrence Roebler, choral conductor of the School of Music staff.

In 1972 Professor Samuel M. Jones directed The Philharmonic Chorus of Madison at Tudors; the Chorus performed only four nights, using a 'platoon' system of singers. In 1973 the event was called the Tudor Holiday Dinner Concert (sic) and the Chorus performed six nights. The holiday occasion became known as the Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts in 1977. In 1979 the Chorus was performing seven nights, in 1981 with Monday night breaks. Professor Jones led the Philharmonic through the Tudor Dinners of 1994, after which he retired as director.

In 1995 Dr. Patrick Gorman became the director of The Philharmonic Chorus of Madison and has continued the performances at the Wisconsin Union Tudor Holiday Dinner Concerts to the present.