History of the Choral Ensembles at Mount Holyoke

In 1877, Miss Charlotte Steele organized a select chorus to give "open air concerts on campus in summer." A student-led Glee Club, Banjo, and Mandolin society existed from the 1880's to the 1920's. "Interested...in social functions rather than in serious musicianship, its programs were modelled on those of the men's college glee clubs and included popular ballads and glees."

In 1893, the year after a department of music was created at Mount Holyoke, Prof. Fletcher formed "a choir...to sing anthems and choruses on Founder's and Commencement Days and at occasional Vespers services." In 1899, College Organist Prof. William C. Hammond organized a College Choral Club, later called the College Choir or "Carol Choir" which became widely celebrated for their annual Christmas Carol Concerts performed on campus and also in Hartford, Philadelphia, Boston, in New York's Town Hall and even (in 1926) at the White House.

Professor Ruth Douglass '23 remained at Mount Holyoke after her graduation, as soloist, vocal coach, Associate Conductor, and, after Hammond's retirement in 1937, as Choral Director, until 1967. In 1937, one student wrote that "the combined membership of the class choirs is more than three hundred, nearly a third of the whole student body. From among the upper-class choirs is selected every year a Glee Club of about a hundred voices." Miss Douglass' Glee Club continued the tradition of annual Christmas concerts in New York City and made a special album for Columbia Records in 1949. Her choirs provided music for compulsory chapel services and frequently performed with collegiate men's choruses.

Juilliard Conservatory graduate Tamara Knell (now Brooks, recently on the faculty at New England Conservatory), Choral Director from 1967-70, led two European concert tours--winning first prize at the Hague International Koorfest -- and introduced Mount Holyoke singers to a wide repertoire of significant choral literature for women's voices.

Professor Catharine Melhorn (with degrees from Smith College, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Illinois) came to Mount Holyoke in 1970 to direct Concert Choir and was named Choral Director in 1971. Under her quarter century of leadership, Mount Holyoke choirs won critical acclaim throughout the US and abroad (South America, Russia, Sweden, Spain, central and eastern Europe, England and Wales, and Costa Rica).

Kimberly Dunn Adams joined the Mount Holyoke faculty in 2006. Under her direction, all three ensembles continued their legacy of performing diverse and socially relevant repertoire. Miguel Ángel Felipe acted as interim director of the choirs during the 2009-2010 school year while Professor Adams was finishing her doctorate degree at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Lindsay Summers Pope '07 was the Director of Choral Activities and Visiting Lecturer in Music at Mount Holyoke College from 2011 through 2016. Under her direction, the  choral groups performed a challenging, varied repertoire for women's voices, joint concerts for mixed chorus, and led an alumnae tour of Ireland in Summer 2015. All of the choral ensembles continue the tradition of presenting the annual Christmas Vespers concerts on campus, in New York City, and in Boston. Choral music at Mount Holyoke is still going strong, with almost 200 students involved in singing every year.