History of the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus

Prior to the 1977-78 season of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, choral groups had been provided when needed by the University of Evansville. This practice was changed in 1977 when Minas Christian, Orchestra Director, contracted with Dr. John Carlson, Director of Music at Indiana State University, Evansville campus, to organize and prepare a chorus for performance with the orchestra. The chorus was to be comprised of auditioned singers from the community and was to be called the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus. The new chorus sang its first performance on April 16, 1977. After one season, Dr. Carlson accepted a position in Jacksonville, Florida, and was replaced by Michael Judy.

During the two seasons under Mr. Judy’s direction there was not enough performance time with the orchestra to keep a chorus together. The chorus worked toward building their presence in the Evansville area by presenting additional concerts, independent of the orchestra. The first major independent concert was presented at Murphy Auditorium, New Harmony, Indiana on May 3, 1980. Mr. Judy resigned at the end of the 1980 season.

At this time, the EPO decided to dissolve the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus due to lack of funds to pay a conductor. Through the efforts of a very determined Chorus Advisory group, the chorus hired its own director and continued to build its credibility as a vital part of the arts community in the tri-state. Through their efforts the chorus membership increased from 38 in May of 1980 to over 100 in September of the same year.

Dr. Will Kessling, a staff member at I.S.U.E., was hired as Conductor in 1980 and remained through the 1982-83 season. Several successful concerts were presented independently and funding was secured as needed. A good working relationship with the orchestra organization was cultivated. On August 22, 1983, the chorus reorganized as the Evansville Master Chorale, Inc.

Dr. Robert McIver, a staff member at Kentucky Wesleyan University, served as Conductor from 1983 through the 1990-91 seasons. From 1990 until 1993, the chorus was directed by Dr. William Eash of the University of Evansville. By the fall of 1993, the Evansville Master Chorale formally became the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus, re-joining the Evansville Philharmonic organization. With the new arrangement, Mr. Robert Moody, Assistant Conductor of the EPO became the conductor of the chorus. In 1997, a contingent of singers performed in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. The chorus also participated in the grand opening of the newly renovated Victory Theatre.

Tim Hankewich replaced Robert Moody in October 1998 and conducted the chorus during the 1998-1999 season. In June 1999, a contingent of the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus performed at Carnegie Hall in New York under the direction of Robert Moody.

Teresa Cheung joined the Evansville Philharmonic family as Assistant Conductor of the EPO and Chorus conductor in June 1999. During Ms. Cheung’s tenure a contingent of the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus performed twice on tour overseas: Italy in 2002, London in 2005. She served as the Chorus Conductor for six seasons, preparing major choral works including Beethoven Missa Solemnis, and Verdi Requiem, as well as independent concerts.

Joseph Eunkwan Choi became EPO Assistant Conductor and Philharmonic Chorus Conductor in August 2005. Under his direction the Chorus performed such major works as the Mozart Requiem (January 2006), Shostakovich’s Babi Yar (February 2006), Puccini’s Mass (February 2007), and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (April 2008). In October 2007 the Chorus celebrated its 30th Anniversary in a program featuring a wide variety of periods and styles. The program also included the world premiere of a work by Bill Hemminger entitled “The Chorus of Our Voices” commissioned especially for the occasion, plus a guest conducting appearance by the EPC’s first director, Dr. Jon Carlson.

In May 2008, the EPC welcomed Dr. Dennis Malfatti, Director of Choral Activities at the University of Evansville as its new Director. During the 2008-09 season the Chorus performed a sing-along Messiah in Evansville and Oakland City, Indiana (December 2008), were featured in a tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals (February 2009), and performed the colossal Alexander Nevsky by Prokofiev (March 2009). Under Dr. Malfatti’s direction the Chorus continued to grow in numbers and artistic quality. In 2009-10 the Philharmonic featured the Chorus in the season finale to its 75th anniversary season with a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral”.

In July 2012, Andrea Drury, Vocal Music Director for North High School, was appointed Conductor of the EPC, now consisting of 125+ members. The EPC will be featured in many programs throughout the 2012-2013 season, including the Fall Choral Concert in November, “Peppermint Pops” and “Handel’s Messiah by Candlelight” in December, “Mancini Magic” in February 2013, and the Classics season finale in April: ”Verdi Requiem”.