A Voice for Voices

Choral music is among the oldest and most fundamental of the arts. It combines the power of music with the clarity of words, and speaks with the immediacy of the human voice. In lifting voices together in song, choral singing builds community. It brings together people of all backgrounds, skill levels, and ages to inhabit and share some of humanity’s greatest artistic creations. In the words of Phyllis Curtin, virtuoso soprano soloist and beloved teacher at Tanglewood and at Boston University,

“…choral singing is one of the great human social experiences. People singing together under inspired leadership share the experience of living in great music, and in so doing are in touch with one another closely, warmly, and openly."

A chorus is fertile ground for building harmony in our community—something that is particularly needed in times of conflict and division.

Here in the six New England states we have a vibrant choral community that now numbers over 460 choruses with combined membership of more than 25,000 individuals. For 40 years, Choral Arts New England has been a voice for those voices, encouraging choral excellence in the tradition of conductor and cultural leader Alfred Nash Patterson. Organized and run by a board consisting of choral singers, directors, and composers from throughout the region, Choral Arts New England knows the New England choral community. We build connections and share information with our chorus directory, comprehensive calendar, and newsletter, and we conduct events such as our annual awards ceremony, where we recognize and celebrate our region’s extraordinary choral leaders, conductors, and composers.

The core of our work from the start has been the annual awarding of Alfred Nash Patterson grants. Over 260 grants, totaling over $330,000, have been awarded since 1985. Grants have gone to all types of choruses and their supporters: chamber and symphonic groups, nonauditioned community choruses and professional ensembles, all exemplifying an aspect of choral excellence. They have expanded the repertoire, educated young singers, and inspired artistic and social collaborations. Grants have helped create new choruses, reinvigorated long-established choruses, and supported transformative experiences for choral singers, their audiences, and their communities.

But while the choral community has grown over the decades, our grant funding has not. Choral Arts New England now receives an average of 50 grant applications per year—nearly double that of a decade ago. In that decade, the total dollar amounts of grant requests have more than tripled. We are now able to fund only an average of 20% of the proposals received, and those at a level of less than half the amount requested.

We need an endowment suited for today's choral community in order to continue to invigorate and inspire choruses in the spirit of Alfred Nash Patterson, just as when we began 40 years ago. Today's world is larger and more complex than ever, and today's choruses—our communities' voices—play a unique role in connecting people and inspiring action. Choruses need support to connect with singers and audiences, and they need new compositions to add to their vocabulary for speaking to the present and the future. When a crisis arises, singing together builds community and maintains hope. Grants support creative responses, and they help ensure that choral voices remain active in communities large and small throughout New England.

In response to this clear need, we have launched a campaign to double our $300,000 grantmaking endowment! Our endowment, invested as a permanent donor-advised fund with the Boston Foundation, has grown steadily but has had no substantial additions for nearly 20 years. Better funding will support many high-quality projects that now go wanting and make possible more ambitious projects such as major commissions, large collaborations, and grants supporting a particular region or addressing an important need. Endowment funds are used only for grants. Our small operating budget is funded wholely by contributions from board members and supporters.

Choral music needs your support. Choral Arts New England has been providing that support for 40 years. We ask you to join us in encouraging choral excellence for the next generation, so that the power of voices may continue to inspire, uplift and unite us in song.