History of the Tulsa Children's Chorus
Founded in 1991 by Ginny LeDoux, the Tulsa Children's Chorus remains one of the most prestigious and best-recognized choral organizations in Oklahoma. The Tulsa Children’s Chorus began as part of the Community Arts School of Tulsa, a joint venture of Tulsa Public Schools and the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa with the intention of offering students arts enrichment in the greater Tulsa area. Enrollment for the first semester of twelve weeks was 10 students. In fall of 1991 several additional students joined the chorus and rehearsals were moved from Saturday mornings to Tuesday afternoons.
By spring of 1994, over 65 singers from as many as 35 schools were members of the Tulsa Children’s Chorus. Consequently, a second chorus was added to the organization. In addition, Chris Ferguson, then Children’s Choir Program Director of All Souls Unitarian Church, was hired as Assistant Director. In fall of 1994, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus began a two-year residence association with Tulsa Junior College’s Office of Continuing Education in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.
In 1995, the choir was invited to perform as a demonstration chorus for the Oklahoma Choral Directors Association Summer Conference at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. In spring of 1996, with over 70 singers in the two choruses, Tulsa Children’s Chorus was granted 501 (c)3 Status. In fall of 1996, a third chorus was added to the program, the Tulsa Youth Chorale. Jerry LeDoux was hired to direct this chorus. In addition, a Board of Directors was formed and assumed responsibility for the operations of the chorus. The chorus was invited to sing in Tulsa Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme. In collaboration with the Tulsa Philharmonic, the choir presented Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. In spring of 1997, the choir did a joint concert with the Norman Children’s Chorus. In winter of 1998, the choir appeared as an honor chorus for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association Conference. In fall of 1998, Elizabeth Geer, then Vice-President of Oklahoma Music Educators Association, was hired as Assistant Director.
In summer of 1999, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus received the distinct honor of being invited to the Des Moines International Children’s Choral Festival Creating Artistry Workshop. During this week-long event, the choir was afforded the opportunity to perform with world-renowned choirs such as Tapiola Choir, Albanian Children’s Choir, The Central Coast Children’s Choir, Guangzhou Tianhe Children’s Choir, Northwest Indiana Youth Chorus and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.
Summer of 2000 took the Tulsa Children’s Chorus to Indiana where they participated in the 15th Annual Indianapolis Children’s Choral Festival. While there, the choir was given the opportunity to sing with nationally acclaimed children’s choirs including the St. Louis Children’s Chorus, Glen Ellyn Children’s Choir and the Toronto Children’s Chorus.
The Tulsa Children’s Chorus celebrated their 10th Anniversary by commissioning Nancy Hill Cobb to write Laudate Pueri. In fall of 2001, the organization hired Scott Zenthoefer as Director of the Tulsa Youth Chorale. In summer of 2001, the choir was invited once again to the Des Moines International Children’s Choral Festival. In winter of 2002, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus was selected as an honor choir for the Oklahoma Music Directors Association Winter Conference. In spring of the same year, the choir presented a different kind of performance, “From Bach to Beebop.” In summer of 2002, the choir traveled to New York City for an end-of-the-year choir trip. The choir also participated in the OK Mozart Festival that same summer.
In spring 2003, the choir produced a CD of compiled choral selections from 1999 – 2002 entitled Holiday Sounds. In spring of 2005, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus presented a concert in honor of the retiring of Chris Ferguson, who served for 11 years as the Assistant Director of the Tulsa Children’s Chorus. In summer of 2005, the choir participated in the Crescent City Choral Festival in New Orleans, LA, with guest artist Bob Chilcott. The choir was joined by the Capital City Children’s Chorus, Georgia Young Voices of KSU, Heartland Youth Choir, Piedmont Children’s Choir and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City.
The 2005-2006 singing year marked the 15th Anniversary of the Tulsa Children’s Chorus in which several celebratory events were planned throughout the term. A piece by local composer Z. Randall Stroope entitled Jauchzet dem Herrn was commissioned for the Tulsa Children’s Chorus and performed at their spring 2006 concert. In addition, the choir produced a CD in honor of the occasion entitled 100 Voices Celebrate 100 Years. This CD includes music by composers from all time periods including Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, Brahms, Benjamin Britten, Randall Thompson and John Rutter.
In summer of 2006, Lisa Wagner was hired as Director of the Honor Chorus. In fall of 2006, the choir joined the Tulsa Ballet and Tulsa Oratorio Chorus in their performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. In fall of 2007, the choir sang for the Oklahoma Centennial Time Capsule Kick-Off Celebration. That same year, Marycarol Page was hired as Executive Director for the Tulsa Children’s Chorus.
In spring 2008, Tulsa Children’s Chorus Founder Ginny LeDoux announced her retirement. In honor of her 17 years of dedication in choral music education to children in the city of Tulsa, a piece entitled Laudate Pueri by Nancy Hill Cobb was commissioned for the Tulsa Children’s Chorus and sung at their spring 2008 concert. In addition, local composer Eliot Glaser wrote a piece in her honor entitled Cherokee Blessing.
Following LeDoux’s retirement, Tulsa Children’s Chorus called Marjoleine Gravley as Artistic Director. In addition to her work with the choir, Gravley was serving as Assistant Director for the Bartlesville Choral Society. In spring of 2009, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus presented a joint concert with the Canterbury Youth Chorus of Oklahoma City. That same year, they performed for the OK Mozart Festival in Bartlesville and brought in their first music major intern, Katie Radaker. Subsequent to Ms. Gravely’s relocation, Lisa Wagner was called upon to serve as Interim Artistic Director. In spring of 2011, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus collaborated with the Tulsa Youth Opera and Tulsa Oratorio Chorus to perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. In November 2011, the choir traveled to New York City with the Tulsa Oratorio Chorus and performed John Rutter’s Mass of the Children at Carnegie Hall.
In spring 2013, the choir received the distinct honor of singing the National Anthem at the Tulsa Oilers Opening Night. In December, the Tulsa Children’s Chorus joined the Tulsa Vocal Arts Ensemble for the Britten Centennial Celebration. In spring of 2014, the choir was invited to perform in the University of Arkansas Children’s Choral Festival. The choir finished the season by winning 1st Place at the Heartland Music Festival in Oklahoma City. In December 2014, the Tulsa Children's Chorus hosted the first annual Sounds of the Season holiday concert with the Holland Hall Honor Chorus. This was the beginning of a great tradition that continues today and reaches new strides by the collaboration of various choral music programs in the state of Oklahoma through song during the holiday season. Spring of 2015 brought new excitement through a joint concert with the world-renowned African Children's Choir and a trip to St. Louis in which they will sing with the esteemed St. Louis Children's Choirs during their annual Family & Friends Concert!
The Tulsa Children’s Chorus continues today with its mission of providing children in the Tulsa-metro area with a one-of-a-kind choral music experience under the direction of Charlotte Blakely. The choir's 25th Anniversary season started off tremendously through the distinct honor of performing with Metropolitan Opera star Leona Mitchell in October 2015 for her debut into the world of jazz - Two Worlds One Voice: A Tribute to Chet Baker. The chorus continued to reach new heights throughout the season when being asked to participate in the Bob Chilcott Choral Workshop & Festival in November 2015 and being selected as an honor choir for the Oklahoma Music Educators Association annual conference in January 2016. The choir ended the season with several 25th Anniversary events in June 2016 including a trip to Kansas City, the production of a CD containing performances from the past 25 years and a 25th Anniversary concert with founding Tulsa Children's Chorus director Ginny LeDoux.