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- Jerry Alred - Many people have asked how the idea for a chorus occurred to Wallace Whittaker and the Inland management. The histories of the Chorus in programs and elsewhere state simply that it "grew out of the Inland employee Christmas parties," but not precisely how. The Inlander of 1936 introduces a well-planned Chorus, including a photo of Raymond Sovey, the Broadway theatrical designer who was responsible for the costuming and staging. But a 1941 article sheds more light on the origin of the idea, as the following passage suggests:
"The members range in age from 8 to 15 years and constitute a chorus that is an outgrowth of an idea extending as far back as 20 years. When Inland started its series of employe Christmas parties at that time, entertainment was provided by children of various ages from Inland division families. The programs disclosed the fact many of the children possessed unusual vocal ability and the plan was conceived to form a regular Inland Children’s chorus." -- Dayton Sunday Journal-Herald, "Dayton Music to Be Heard Far, Wide During Holiday," December 21, 1941, sports section/local news, page 6. See the articles page ("Inland Children's Chorus to Broadcast").
If this article is correct, the children who "possessed unusual vocal ability" may have planted the seeds for a children's chorus in the 1920s, well before the official founding of the Chorus in 1936.
[Posted: Feb 17, 2017]
- Jerry Alred - I was describing to a friend recently the drama of singing and marching off stage to Humperdinck's "Evening Prayer." No one so far has described in detail that experience, so I thought I'd try from my memory. And, please, corrections or additions welcome. I should mention that a full, in-concert version of "Evening Prayer" (sometimes referred to as "Fourteen Angels") with march off stage and sheet music is available on our music page.
"Evening Prayer" (German: "Abendsegen" or evening blessing or benediction) is the most famous song from Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel. The brother and sister are lost in the woods at night and try to comfort each other as they sing. As they fall asleep, fourteen angels appear in pantomime to protect the children. As a young person (and even now), I've often thought that I could use those angels watching over me.
Former Chorus members from every generation sang "Evening Prayer" as far as I can tell. It was something of an encore at the end of the first half. As it was sung (sopranos and altos only), the balcony spotlights and even footlights would begin to turn blue. I confess I enjoyed that feature on stage because the blue lights were cooler than the intense white stage lights. As the lyrics were finished, the accompaniment continued, the Chorus closed the binders in unison and marched precisely off stage -- boys stage left and girls stage right. On our recording (the [WAV] file especially), you can hear some of the footsteps as row after row marches off the stage.
The lights would continue to become more intensely blue as the stage emptied. The material used on the platform reflected the blue in such a way that the stage would take on an ethereal look. That must have been planned by Raymond Sovey, the Broadway lighting and production designer who staged the Chorus. We marched off the stage, down the steps, and out the side doors. Stage hands would make sure the side doors were quiet and the big curtains would close and then the house lights would come up for the intermission. In all, the effect was as dramatic as a participant as it was from the audience. See the articles page December 1956 clipping with the stage and interior of the newly remodeled Memorial Hall.
I'm not sure if we performed that song and marched off stage at the Art Institute because of the smaller size of that venue. That's as much as I can remember, so if others recall more or further details, please add them. [Posted: Dec 26, 2016]
- Larry Brun - Loved the snapshot album especially the pictures of the Connair brothers and Lucille Batter back in 1937. I went to school with Lucille's daughter Sue who was also in the chorus. [Posted: Jul 18, 2016]
- Jerry Alred - I have been working recently on music files and have uploaded to the website songs from a remarkably clear version of the 1958 album. That album was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of General Motors. One song on this recording is the traditional spiritual "Were You There?" that includes an excellent solo by Gerald (Jerry) Cochran. I urge website visitors to play that audio file on the "music" page. Many remember that Jerry had an outstanding voice -- unfortunately, this is the only recording that features one of his solos. Hearing Jerry reminded me of our friendship and time together as we rode the same bus to and from practices -- Route 4: Delphos-Wayne. I remember most vividly that Jerry and I would walk after practices from the Loretto, then through Rike's, and on to our bus stop on Third Street. What a treat it would be to see Jerry again at one of our luncheons or at least learn if he continued to sing beyond his time in the Chorus. [Posted: Jan 09, 2016]
- Larry Brun - Tomorrow The Ohio State Buckeyes will play for the first "Official" National Championship in football. The NCAA has never recognized a Champion before. This has brought back memories to me of 1954. Back then we had double sessions on the Saturdays 2 or 3 weeks before the concert. I don't remember the hours but I think they were from 10--12 and 1--3. Maybe Marilou remembers the hours. Anyway we would go to lunch from 12--1. There were many lunch counters in downtown Dayton to eat at at the time: McCrorys, Kresges, Woolworths, Rikes, White Towers (not White Castle), and Gallaghers. But a group of us always went down to the Arcade to a Deli called "Knolls" where you could get a custom made sandwich--hmmmm good. On one of those Saturdays in Nov of '54 OSU was playing Michigan and several of us hurried over to the 7th floor of Rikes to catch the last quarter of the game on TV. OSU won 21-0 and on New Years Day beat USC to win their 2nd National Championship according to the Polls. I was 12 years old and I think that Christmas we performed The Story of Bethlehem. It was Richard Westbrock's last concert. [Posted: Jan 11, 2015]
- Larry Brun - Jerry. Other soloists I remember...
Rocky Brown--Old Man River
Joe Bales--Adonoi-- sung at The Art Institute
Sharon Bachman--2 or 3 Don't remember the songs
And of course the "Pickled Boys" in ST NICK--Tom Meyer (who was there last spring) Pat Caulfield and I don't remember the 3rd but he is in the program. [Posted: Jan 4, 2015]
- Sharon Kelly Roth - My brother, Denis Kelly, was in the Chorus in the mid-1940s. As I recall he sang a solo in Stouthearted Men, but I can't say for sure the young voice on that song posted on the music page is Denis Kelly. He died 5 years ago but while he was alive he sang with the Indianapolis Opera Company and in dinner theaters. He loved being on the stage. He always praised Mr. Westbrook and all that he taught him. The Inland Children's Chorus was a highlight of his early years (mine also!). [Posted: Jan 4, 2015]
- Nancy Hamden Provost - I was a member from 1951-59. I really treasure all the memories and the music we sang. Those were golden years. Additionally, my aunt Mary Ann Wrightsman Cooper sang in the early years and when we did the St. Nicholas Cantata, she came back to sing again. It was great to sing with her. She had a super voice. [Posted: Jan 3, 2015]
- Jerry Alred - I promised at the April 2014 luncheon to post the names of soloists on the records whenever possible. I have learned some names, but soloists were not listed in the programs or on the record albums. One reason may be that the Chorus focused on the collaborative blending that James Tunney describes in an earlier comment. Both directors Richard Westbrock and Joseph Geiger acknowledged soloists during concerts so the audience could offer additional applause for a soloist's performance. Many solos in the collection and on the music page are remarkable, and a number of Chorus members went on to substantial careers in music -- they deserve recognition.
The names of soloists below are based on comments by the individuals themselves and the recollections of former members. But memories have faded over many years, so the list may have inaccuracies and is certainly incomplete.
1940: "Gesu Bambino" (Matthew Phelan)
1947: "Over the Rainbow" (likely Joyce Albrecht Clements)
1957: "Easter Parade" (Alfred Wimmers)
1957: "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (Alfred Wimmers)
1958: "Were You There" (Gerald Cochran)
1959: "Panis Angelicus" (Elaine Ott Humfleet)
1960: "Ave Maria" (Phyllis Mote Keferl)
1959 or 1963: "O Come, Little Children" (Ronald Rehling and partner)
1966: "Gesu Bambino" (likely Kathy Wenclewitz)
Some excellent solos were never recorded. For example, a newspaper review for the 1947 spring concert describes "The surprisingly mature voice of Shirley Jones" singing the "Italian Street Song, " David Cordonnier singing "One Alone," and Bill Clingman who sang "Ol' Man River" and "Smiling Through." These do not appear on any of the records.
Many other solos (duets and trios) deserve recognition; some that stand out can be heard in the following: "Stardust" (1946), "Stouthearted Men" (1947), "Romance" (1948), "Red, Red Robin" (1953), "Adonoi" (1954), "V'shom'ru" (1959), "Danny Boy" (1960), "Till There Was You" (1960), "Panis Angelicus" (1962), "The Sound of Music" (1962), "Gesù Bambino" (1966), and "O Holy Night" (1966).
If anyone can identify more soloists, please add a posting or contact me. [Posted: Jan 2, 2015]
- George Long - I remember Matt [Phelan] and I was with the Chorus then. In response to an article in our local paper, I contacted Matt and he sent me a tape and a program of the event. Pretty cool guy, Matt Phelan. My son transferred this program, together with my son-in-laws Cathedral Choir Christmas program to a CD and it has become a staple "Joyous Noise" during the Christmas season. [Posted: Jul 14, 2014]