Onion River Chorus History

Onion River Chorus was founded in 1978 by Larry Gordon and Brian Webb.  Larry was the organizer and came up with most of the programming ideas and Brian served as conductor for the first ten years. 

It has always been a non-auditioned community chorus, open to anyone interested in singing rather eclectic programs of classical and contemporary choral music.

Larry become the regular conductor beginning in about 1988, although Brian returned regularly as a guest conductor. 

Due to Larry’s periodic travels with his Northern Harmony touring ensemble the group has also had many other guest conductors , including Steven Light, Roger Grow, Catherine Orr, and most recently Dick Riley. 

For several decades Lynnette Coombs has been the able accompanist.

For the first several years rehearsals were at Vermont College and most of the performances were at beautiful College Hall.  This was before the college remodeled the space and installed acoustical panels and carpeting which considerably dampened the formerly super live acoustics.   Once that space became unavailable the chorus moved its rehearsals to the Bethany Church Chapel.  Since fall 2013 we have been rehearsing upstairs at Christ Church.

From the start Brian and Larry were unafraid to tackle very challenging programs of less frequently performed repertoire.  The very first program was Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610.  The next several years included programs devoted to a single 20th century composer: Stravinsky (including Les Noces with four pianos and percussion); Bartok (including the magnificent Cantata Profana with orchestra); Dallapiccola (including Canti di Prigionia). 

Some other highlights of the early years included Mozart’s C Minor Mass (with soprano soloists Celina Moore and Sandra Sliker); a collaboration with Ann Hamilton and her Northsong chorus performing works by Lukas Foss; a collaboration with Cy Bryant and the Lamoille Chorus performing Handel’s Israel in Egypt.

Since then the group has continued its reputation for unusual programming.  It has regularly featured programs of major works by lesser known baroque and early baroque composers:  complete masses by Zelenka, and Biber, Charpentier’s Te Deum , Litanies for  the Virgin and Midnight Mass for Christmas Eve, a Christmas vespers by Praetorius, motets by Tunder, Buxtehude and others. When possible these programs have been accompanied by bands of baroque period instruments.

The chorus has also not shied away from contemporary repertoire, most recently premiering the major new cantata, Raine Songs, by Burlington composer Don Jamison.
ORC is always welcoming to new singers.  The regular tea break in the middle of the Monday night rehearsals is always a time for convivial socializing.

In its nearly four decades Onion River Chorus has provided a rewarding opportunity for singers to broaden their horizons and participate in a group dedicated to presenting high level performances.  It has also continued to delight and educate its audiences through its stimulating programs.

Guest Conductor Donia Prince

Donia Prince received her formal musical training at Northwestern University’s School of Music, with a focus on French Horn performance, studying with members of the Chicago Symphony. Realizing that the single-minded focus necessary to land a job in a major symphony orchestra didn’t suit her expanding interests, she let go of that aspiration and has since had a variety of occupations, but has regularly returned to music. She taught music for many years at a small private school in the Northeast Kingdom, and served for several years as a choral director in Vermont public schools. She co-founded and directed a hospice choir in the Morrisville area. Currently Donia is the manager of The North Branch Café in Montpelier. She and her partner, Maryann, live in East Montpelier. Donia has been singing in the tenor section of Onion River Chorus for the past 2 years, and is excited for the opportunity to be on the other side of the podium!

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