History

The year was 1924. President Calvin Coolidge gave the first ever radio broadcast from the White House, feature length films were silent, the population of Santa Clara County was around 100,000, and the group that would become San Jose Symphonic Choir was born.  Although SJSC has been known by three different names and made music with five conductors, one constant has been our membership: we have always been comprised of volunteer singers.  LeRoy Brant was our first music director and headed up the chorus for an amazing 40 years; our current conductor Leroy Kromm took over the baton in 1985. 

Then as now, programs from the Maestro Brant era leaned heavily on oratorios, requiems, and other large works for choir and orchestra; in SJSC’s first known public performance, Brant conducted an assembled group of 200 chorus and orchestra members for a November 1924 performance at the State Teachers College (San Jose State University). Brant also began the custom of annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, a tradition that continues to this day.

Following Brant’s retirement in 1963, Reginald Greenbrook directed the chorus until 1977.  The chorus was reorganized in March 1977, under the direction of John Pleasant and was renamed San Jose Symphonic Choir.  Donald Haneke conducted the choir from 1979 to 1985.   

 

Maestro Kromm took over the baton in 1985, and the choir has flourished under the direction of this highly regarded conductor, soloist, teacher, and accompanist.  Under his leadership, the choir has grown to 116 choristers.

While impossible to mention all memorable concerts, some SJSC highlights include the 1963 celebration of our 100th concert with a world premiere of a work by Flor Peeters dedicated to Maestro Brant; our 1991 concert with the Washu Citizen Chorus from Okayama, Japan (San Jose’s sister city); the complete, unabridged Messiah by G. F. Handel performed with period instruments at St. Joseph Cathedral in 2008; and singing with the incomparable Barbra Streisand in November 2012 at the HP Pavilion for an audience of 14,000.

"In 2007 we went on a tour of California, visiting and performing at some missions and churches, one of them being the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. This is a spectacular space; calm and peaceful while only a stone's throw from the Hollywood Freeway, and it features art and tapestries by local, living artists that highlighted the heritage of the church in California. It was such a joy just to sit there and soak it all in. Then we sang. Afterwards, headed back to the bus (wearing my "civilian" clothes, and therefore, incognito) I overheard part of a conversation that was to this effect: "As soon as the music started, I could feel it all just fade away. It was like, 'This is why I got up today'!"
Patty O'Brien
Alto, member since 1995

Throughout our more than 90-year history, SJSC has maintained other traditions as well, including collaborating with local groups, premiering new works, and responding to community needs. In the 1990’s SJSC donated its services to Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their candlelight vigils; in 2002 and 2003, we performed Mozart’s Requiem in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral as part of 9/11 memorial concerts; and in 2006 we participated in a benefit concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In one recent year, SJSC performed by invitation at seven special community events or memorial services.

SJSC often promotes and performs works of local composers. For example, in 1996 the Choir performed the world premiere of Requiem For Lost Children, written by South Bay composer Sondra Clark for the Kevin Collins Foundation for Missing Children; in 2003, we participated in the world premiere of Craig Bohmler’s Sisters, which celebrates San José and her sister cities; and for over 20 years, SJSC has collaborated with local composer Henry Mollicone, performing and premiering several of his works. Our most recent performance of a Mollicone work took place in 2012, when his Misa de los Inmigrantes was the centerpiece of the 100th anniversary celebration of St. Mary’s church in Los Gatos.

The Choir is also committed to keeping alive the world’s most cherished choral masterpieces. Throughout our history we have performed such treasures as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the Verdi Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Brahms’ German Requiem, the Passions by Bach, Haydn’s Creation, and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.

Every two to four years, the Choir also undertakes a summer tour, and SJSC members have sung in dozens of remarkable venues around the world. Several tours have centered around Eastern and Western European cities, but we have also performed in New York, Washington DC, Alaska, Israel and in the California missions.

Fast forward to today. Though the world has changed in ways unimaginable to our original members, we believe they would feel right at home singing with today’s San Jose Symphonic Choir.