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History of the MIT Women's Chorale

The Chorale, the oldest MIT Womenís League interest group, has been meeting continuously since 1933. Established by Willian (Mrs. George) Scatchard, it has given women in the MIT and Harvard communities an opportunity to sing together and has provided a cultural and social setting for making friends. The first singers were wives of MIT faculty, staff and students. An influx of new members joined in the 1940's; their husbands worked at the Radiation Lab housed at MIT during World War II. In 1951, the wives of Harvard faculty were invited to join, and in 1973 all women of the MIT and Harvard communities were welcomed to the group. Our current membership includes many accomplished professionals and woman active in their communities. The membership has always been international, representing more than 25 countries.

While the music sung has been primarily original compositions for women's voices by such composers as Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Britten, the national and ethnic diversity of the Chorale has been reflected in a repertoire of folk songs sung in original languages. The Chorale boasts an impressive library of music, developed and catalogued over the years. Most of the Chorale's concerts have been at MIT, often in Elizabeth Killian Hall. Other MIT performances have included those in the Chapel and performances at International Night and during the MIT 2016 Centennial Open House. In addition, the Chorale has performed at Radcliffe's Hilles Library, the Fogg, Gardner and DeCordova museums, Massachusetts General Hospital, The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, nursing homes, retirement communities and area churches. In 1967, the Chorale was featured on Channel 5's "Dateline Boston" program. Burgeoning membership and audiences in recent years have led the Chorale to seek larger performance spaces in Cambridge, including the Dante Alighieri Society, St. Peterís Episcopal Church and Harvard-Epworth United Methodist churches. In 2012, in celebration of its 80th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the Womenís League, the Chorale released its first professionally-produced recording.

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Since its founding, the Chorale has had eight conductors. Mrs. Scatchard, the first director and founder, was with the group for 33 years, dividing her time each week between teaching music at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. and developing the Chorale at MIT. Mrs. Scatchard was succeeded by Katherine Bitter from 1965-1967. Lucille Ravven became conductor in 1968 and continued until 1980, except for spring, 1970, when Elaine Koloseike led the Chorale. From 1971 to 1980, the Chorale had two conductors: Nancy Kushlan Wanger became co-conductor with Lucille Ravven and together they prepared the Chorale for concerts which they conducted alternately. From 1980 to 2008, Nancy Kushlan Wanger was the sole conductor of the Chorale and Lucille Ravven remained devoted to the Chorale as Associate Conductor and artistic consultant until her death in 1987. Kevin J.N. GaliŤ, J.D., M.M., who joined us in 2008, arranged and wrote a number of pieces for the group. Under his direction, the Chorale regularly performed with small ensembles of orchestral instruments, frequently including Mr. GaliŤís own baroque organ. The Chorale welcomed Daniel Mahoney in September 2019, who directed us during our on-line years during the Covid Pandemic. Nhung Truong joined us As Music Director in the autumn of 2022 as we returned to a hybrid format combining in-person singing and live-streamed rehearsals.

The voices that have filled the Emma Rogers Room each week in rehearsal for over 80 years belong to women who have shared their gifts of song with each other and with the community.

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Last updated July 17, 2024