The Downers Grove Choral Society (DGCS), a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to the performance of outstanding choral music, has been giving concerts in the western suburbs of Chicago since 1959.
Originally named the Downers Grove Oratorio Society, the DGCS was formed in 1959 by Thelma Roe Milnes and Donald Drew. For many years prior to this time, a tradition existed to perform Handel’s Messiah annually in the churches of Downers Grove. The Society was founded to perpetuate this tradition, to allow for performances of additional major choral works, and to encourage all singers in the community to participate in programs of choral excellence.
Since its founding in 1959, the DGCS has earned a reputation for excellence, and has developed a loyal following in the community. Through the past 54 years the DGCS has:
- Built upon the original intentions of the founders, including professional soloists and orchestras in a three-concert season.
- Added an outreach program, to entertain the underserved at senior facilities.
- Expanded the outreach program to provide entertainment for community events, such as Grove Fest, Memorial Day commemoration and the Fourth of July Parade.
- Provided children’s concerts for the community and established an award to Junior High choral students, to promote a tradition of musical education at an early age.
- Sponsored an Artist Recital Series to support excellent local musicians by providing opportunities to perform and be heard.
Now in its 54th season, the group marks as major achievements its many collaborations with orchestras, choral groups, and children’s groups through the years, its premier and commissioned works (most recently in 2011) and the programs that have featured Metropolitan Opera Star Sherrill Milnes, who sang with the group and whose mother was a co-founder. The DGCS also enjoyed being part of the chorus for the 1997 performance of Elijah at Carnegie Hall in New York under Mr. Milnes direction.
Throughout its history the DGCS is proud to have been led by many outstanding directors: Thelma Roe Milnes (1959-1969); Margaret Bollinger (1970-1987); Gregory Sullivan Isaacs (1889-1992); Robert Holst (1992-2011); and most recently Amy Weller (2011-2012). The Society is fortunate that DGCS member Justin Sisul was available to conduct 2012-2013 season concerts when illness prevented Dr. Weller from continuing last November.
The chorus presently consists of approximately 60 dues-paying members, many of whom have trained voices. Today the Society’s performances present some of the finest singers and instrumentalists in the Chicago area, and its repertoire has expanded to include not only the great works of the masters but also the distinguished works of later and contemporary composers. In addition to the enrichment of the community with exceptional concerts, the Society provides talented singers with opportunities to learn and perform outstanding choral works.
To see a video with more details about the DGCS, click on the links below:
DGCS History: Part I
DGCS History: Part II