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MIT Choral Society (Choir)

Founded: 1947 (?) - Cambiedge, Massachusetts, USA

The MIT Choral Society, which began with 16 singers and who met at Klaus Liepmann's home, grew rapidly under the enthusiasm of its new maestro. The repertoire began to include major works of the choral/orchestral repertoire. Works such as George Frideric Handel's Judas Maccabeus; Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah; Bach cantatas' and Haydn's Creation, all accompanied by the MIT Symphony Orchestra began to find their way into the hearts and minds of MIT students. In 1952, a performance of Johannes Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem set a new standard of excellence.

The Choral Society performed with a chamber orchestra made up of players from the Boston Symphony Orchestra with soloists Helen Boatwright and Paul Matthen. Other notable soloists who graced the performances of the MIT Choral Society included New York City Opera and Boston native contralto Eunice Alberts as well as Wellesley college graduate and New York City Opera soprano Phyllis Curtin.

In 1955, Kresge Auditorium at MIT (the long-awaited and still the only major performance space at MIT) was dedicated in a gala ceremony which included the world premiere of Aaron Copland's "Canticle of Freedom" which was commissioned for the occasion by the Choral Society. Klaus Liepmann recalls memorable performances with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra of the Verdi Requiem and Béla Bartók's Cantata Profana in particular. Additional contemporary music presented were works of Paul Hindemith, Charles Ives, Arthur Honegger, Messiaen, and Randall Thompson.

The Choral Society also began to be regular contributors to MIT festive occasions such as the centennial in 1961 and the inaugurations of four MIT presidents.

Klaus Liepmann initiated the first concert trips to Europe with the chorus traveling to Germany, England, Paris and Brussels. Some of the most noteworthy performances included concerts with students of the Paris Conservatory, and with the student orchestras with the University of Bonn, the Technological Institute of Darmstadt, and the student orchestra of the Academy of Music in Berlin. Klaus Liepmann was proud of the fact that American and European students could come together to perform great music of a common inheritance while during the same time discussing the problems of their age and the future of mankind.

In 1962, on the Choral Society's third trip to Europe the chorus donated its concert proceeds for the reconstruction of the famous St. Peter Mancroft Cathedral in Norwich, England. The church was in the process of repair and filled with scaffolding reaching high up into the spire. When a curious MIT student of architecture climbed the scaffolding despite the interdiction posted everywhere, the Deacon of the church greeted him upon his return to terra firma with the words, "young man, this is the closest to God you will ever be." At a concert in Berlin, the guest orchestra were no less than the wind players of the Berliner Philharmoniker. The beginning of the program consisted of a-cappella music of Aaron Copland, Finney, and J.S. Bach.

Klaus Liepmann also initiated the Spring Festivals of Music at MIT in 1962. This series was inspired by an anonymous American benefactor who said "If they delight European audiences, why should they not be featured in America?" The Choral Society shared honors with the Glee Club, the orchestra, the band, the jazz orchestra, and the Logarhythms (one of MIT's student-run all male acappella groups) In these concerts, Randall Thompson conducted the Concert Band and the Glee Club in his Testament of Freedom. Wellesley College joined the MIT Glee Club in a performance of Purcell's Fairy Queen and Vassar and MIT presented the first American performance of Haydn's only opera seria, Orfeo. When 65 members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra joined the Glee Club of MIT and Douglass College in a performance of The Seasons by Haydn, the orchestra players reveled in the delightful music which had not been played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 39 years! At the musicians suggestion, Erich Leinsdorf re-instated the piece soon after into the repertory. In 1965, during the third MIT Spring Festival, the Choral Society together with with the Mount Holyoke Glee Club joined in a memorable performance of L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and later combined with the Sarah Lawrence Choir in a presentation of Orff's Carmina Burana and with the Smith College Choir, a performance of Milhaud's Les Choephores.

In 1971, the Glee Club together with the Douglass College Choir and the Haydn Orchestra of New York and three prominent soloists gave a performance of Haydn's The Seasons at Lincoln Centers Alice Tully Hall in New York City. The occasion was the Music Festival in honor of Dr. and Mrs. James R. Killian. Klaus Liepmann retired in 1972 and programmed J.S. Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245) as a final farewell to his beloved MIT musicians.


Source: MIT Concert Choir Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (March 2010)

Klaus Liepmann: Short Biography | MIT Choral Society | MIT Symphony Orchestra | Recordings of Vocal Works

Links to other Sites

MIT Concert Choir: About Music@MIT


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