In the fall of 1974, Reverend Frank Gulinello told the music director Sylvia Dowst, at the United Methodist Church in Rochester, that he dreamed of a community chorus from Rochester and surrounding communities to sing Handel’s Messiah. On December 15, 1974 they saw their dream realized as the 64-member Rochester Area Community Chorus presented a single performance of the Christmas portion before a packed house under the direction of Sylvia Dowst.
On June 14,1976 the community chorus undertook a patriotic concert, “Flag Waving”, to celebrate the 200th birthday of our nation, under the direction of Justine Leighton. On March 27, 1977 the chorus presented the Easter Portion of Handel’s Messiah under the direction of Charlene Guptill at the First Church Congregational of Rochester. Sylvia Dowst returned as the active director in 1978 and stayed with the group until 1989. Messiah concerts were held every two years with other works such as Vivaldi’s Gloria, Bach’s For Us a Child is Born, Faure’s Requiem and a contemporary musical drama called Celebrate Life.
In 1988, singing member Becky DeMott, who had been instrumental in the development of the chorus, had a dream to produce Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. Sylvia told her to “take it and run with it” and that is exactly what she did. Becky personally trained the boy soprano, Richie Pedrick, and she sang the part of the mother.
In 1989 Sylvia passed her director’s baton to David Warfield, who had been the rehearsal accompanist for her for several seasons. Mr. Warfield presented Bach’s Magnificat his first season and broadened the musical repertoire by adding Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s cantata Wachet Auf and diverse music such as the Rutter Gloria, the Tribute to Veterans Concert, Broadway music and, of course, continuing with Handel’s Messiah. Mr. Warfield was instrumental in connecting the two choruses from Rochester, NH and Rochester, England. Under his direction the chorus also worked with the city of Rochester, NH on its 100th anniversary celebration, the Somersworth Children’s Festival and the Rochester Opera House Restoration Association. In May of 1995, the community chorus voted to incorporate and adopt the name Granite State Choral Society. Mr. Warfield resigned his position as Music Director in December 1998.
Catherine Beller-McKenna, came to the choral society in 1999. Dr. Beller-McKenna continued to expand the choral society’s repertoire with thematic programs such as “Songs from America and the British Isles” (2000); a concert of music by American composers showcasing the music of New England composers Amy Beach and Gwyneth Walker (2003); and “Soldiers, Sailors and Suitors,” a concert of opera and operetta choruses (2004). In May 2002, GSCS presented “By George!” a program of music by George and Ira Gershwin featuring a guest appearance by the Strafford County Wind Symphony and Adrienne Hounsell playing Rhapsody in Blue. Kitty continued the connection between the two Rochesters, inviting Roger Sayer to perform the virtuosic organ accompaniment of Durufle’s Requiem in 2001. In July of 2003 the Granite State Choral Society visited Rochester, England to perform with the Rochester Choral Society in the Rochester Cathedral.
Director Dr. Paul McGovern began his relationship with GSCS in Fall 2005. In his first performance with GSCS he led Handel’s Messiah. In Spring 2006 Paul challenged the choral society with a 250th anniversary celebration of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A performance of his most celebrated works, the program included Mozart’s masterpiece Requiem (K. 626), his Vesperae solennes de confessore (K. 339), and his famous motet Ave verum corpus (K. 618). The performance was accompanied by Jim Bullock on the organ, and featured soloists selected from the choral society.
Music director, Seth A. Hurd, added another chapter to GSCS history by joining us in Summer 2009. For his first performance with GSCS, Seth planned a holiday concert entitled Gloria! Songs of Jubilation, which featured a number of holiday classics. The program included two spirituals, ‘Round the Glory Manger and Hail Mary as well as some classical repertoire such as Gloria In Excelsis by Mozart. He then led us in an exciting collaboration with the Rochester Choral Society from England and the First United Methodist Church Choirs that culminated in concerts around the seacoast area that included selections from Handel’s Four Coronation Anthems, Fauré’s Requiem in d minor, Op 48 and some wonderful spirituals thrown in for additional fun. The great concerts have continued under Seth’s leadership with concerts titled A Feast of Carols, Broadway Cabaret, Bach’s Magnificat and Other Choral Selections, En Masse: Featuring the King of Instruments including Missa Brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (No. 7 in Bb) Kleine Orgelmesse “Little Organ Mass”, by Franz Joseph Haydn, Tribute ~ Americana, and our recent endeavor, ¡CANTA! Music celebrating the Spanish language. Seth conducted his last concert with us presenting our 40th Anniversary commemorative presentation of Handel’s Messiah in December 2014. This formal concert featured four vocal soloists as well as orchestration. It was a beautiful conclusion to Seth’s artistic dedication to GSCS.
Our current Music Director, Dr. Daniel K. Roihl, joined GSCS in January 2015 to direct the newly commissioned work “Rochester” as well as a joint concert collaboration with the Strafford Wind Symphony at the historic Rochester Opera House as the conclusion GSCS’ 40th Anniversary celebration. Currently in his second full season, he has brought a fresh musical perspective to the chorus and has been challenging the chorus to sing outside of the score to the members’ delight. His first concerts, Wondrous Love and All Through the Night, re-introduced the Chamber Singers, incorporated more acapella work and readings, and even saw choreography added to memorized works. The music selections encompass various musical periods and styles which flow together to present a single overall theme. He will be preparing the chorus to present Carl Orff’s Masterwork, Carmina Burana in the spring of 2017.