MONTCLAIR, NJ – In 1952, Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of England, Dwight Eisenhower was elected President of the United States and “The Today Show” had its first broadcast. Closer, in New Jersey, the Bloomfield Avenue streetcar in Montclair had its last run. And the Oratorio Society of New Jersey gave its first concert.
Seventy years later, OSNJ continues to provide a creative outlet for North Jersey choral singers who enjoy performing the great choral works and sharing their passion with the wider community. And for the 2022-23 season, the OSNJ invites this community to celebrate the choir’s 70th anniversary with a program that honors the rich history of choral music through the centuries. The 2022-23 season includes two concerts and the annual “Messiah Sing”, as well as plans to reintroduce OSNJ’s “Summer Sing” tradition, revamped as the “Spring Sing”, scheduled for May 2023.
The OSNJ will also host a gala in honor of its 70th season on Wednesday, October 19 at the Gilded Age Blanchard Estate in South Orange. For more information on the gala celebration, visit oratoriosocietynj.org/70th-anniversary-gala-event. The celebration will include live entertainment, gourmet food and wine selections, and a silent auction. Additionally, the OSNJ will honor members who have sung with the choir for 25 years or more.
After all, OSNJ’s upcoming season is all about acknowledging the longevity of the choir, as well as the timelessness of the music performed by OSNJ. And the season also celebrates the diverse group of singers, drawn from many backgrounds and communities, who come together weekly to rehearse choral masterpieces they deliver with refined grace, musical precision and boundless enthusiasm in the performance.
In the 70 years since its founding, OSNJ has had many highlights, including performing with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, hosting the New Jersey premiere of “King David” from ‘Arthur Honegger and joining other choirs to sing the “German Requiem” by Johannes Brahms. at Carnegie Hall. And during its 50th anniversary season in 2002, the OSNJ presented the world premiere of Montclair composer George Walker’s “Cantata”.
Since 2005, OSNJ’s musical director and conductor has been Sándor Szabó, who is actively engaged as a conductor, organist, pianist, harpsichordist, vocal coach, arranger and judge. Choirs and orchestras under his direction have toured throughout Europe, Canada and the United States, and he has performed in major concert halls and cathedrals in Europe and North America.
Under Szabó’s leadership, the OSNJ expanded its exploration of the choral repertoire, from Renaissance composers such as Palestrina to modern masters such as Bernstein and Jenkins.
OSNJ engages a range of first-class soloists for its programs; many have performance careers at the international level. The choir also chooses instrumentalists from the superb freelance musicians available in the New York metropolitan area.
The choir has persevered through the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the choir suspended rehearsals, but still maintained a presence in the community by sharing video performances of past performance highlights, as well as hosting a virtual “Messiah Sing” in December. In the first half of 2021, the choir met regularly for virtual study sessions of the planned fall repertoire. In November 2021, OSNJ returned to live performance, with concerts at the Union Congregational Church in Montclair, as well as initiating a new relationship by performing at Grace Church in Newark, followed by a live ” Messiah Sing” in December in Montclair.
Given the challenges of the past two years, the Oratorio Society of New Jersey is thrilled to go from strength to strength after 70 years and looks forward to celebrating this accomplishment throughout the coming season.
Further information and recordings of many OSNJ performances can be heard at oratoriosocietynj.org. OSNJ receives support from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Essex County Division of Historic and Cultural Affairs, as well as numerous corporate and individual donors.