Catharine Melhorn

Professor Emeritus of Music

Catharine Melhorn, Hammond-Douglass Professor of Music Emeritus, retired in 2006 after 36 years as Director of Choral Activities at Mount Holyoke College, where she directed the Glee Club, Chamber Singers and Concert Choir. She also taught music theory and appreciation, as well as several seminars for first-year students, and served as Department Chair.

She led Mount Holyoke undergraduate and alumnae choirs on tours to China, South America, eastern and central Europe, England & Wales, Costa Rica, and throughout the US and Canada. Combining with collegiate men’s choruses including Harvard, WPI, Cornell, and UVA, Melhorn conducted numerous choral masterworks with orchestra.

In 1971, with colleague Donald Chen, she “invented” Mount Holyoke’s beloved Christmas Vespers concerts in a format unchanged to the present day. Melhorn also created the Second Saturday program, which introduced hundreds of new Mount Holyoke students to the Pioneer Valley, working in small groups on recreational and community service projects at the outset of their college experience.

From 2011-13 she served as President of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Choral Directors Association, and currently serves as Past-President and Summer Conference Chair. Her Mount Holyoke choirs performed at three ACDA Eastern Division conventions, and she served as Massachusetts Repertory & Standards Chair for Women’s Choruses. Melhorn also has led several ACDA roundtables, repertory and interest sessions.

Between 2006 and 2014, Melhorn was director of the South Hadley Children’s Chorus, a community choir enrolling boys and girls ages 7-14. A graduate of Smith College, she holds an MA in musicology from UC Berkeley and a DMA in choral music with a minor in viola from the University of Illinois.

In 1983, in national competition, her work on Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht was awarded the Julius Herford Dissertation Prize for the outstanding doctoral terminal research project in choral music.

She began her conducting career at Lexington (MA) High School, and also taught high school and middle school in suburban New Haven. She lives in western Massachusetts with husband and Mount Holyoke Professor John Lemly, and is mother to operatic baritone David McFerrin and MGH resident physician Diana Lemly, and mother-in-law to Boston choral conductor Jamie Kirsch.


News Links

  • "Two MHC Professors to Retire," Office of Communications, May 26, 2006
  • "Second*Saturday to Introduce New Students to the Valley," College Street Journal, September 12, 2003
  • "April 27 Glee Club Concert to Feature Faculty Progeny," College Street Journal, April 25, 2003
  • "Christmas Vespers Concerts Nearly a Century Old at MHC," College Street Journal, December 4, 1998