This amateur chorus was assembled in 1939 by the Atlanta Music Club. Haskell Boyter was one of the founders and their leader. One of their earliest performances was Felix Mendelssohn’s Saint Paul oratorio, in April 1941.
On 7th December 1941, they joined forces with the Chattanooga Civic Chorus for two performances of Camille Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio and Arthur Goring Thomas’s The Swan and the Skylark. It was an ill-timed concert, coinciding with Pearl Harbor, and the chorus had to close its doors until the end of World War II.
They re-emerged in 1947, more or less intact, with the co-sponsorship of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Atlanta Music Club, who officially dubbed them the Choral Guild of Atlanta, and named Haskell Boyter their permanent director. Their first post-war concert took place at Glenn Memorial Church, in tandem with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and was conducted by Henry Sopkin.
Haskell retired in 1962, although he was appointed Director-Emeritus. Associate Director Donald Robinson took the helm, and he remained their conductor for thirteen years. On 1stApril 1963, they teamed up with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Georgia State Brass Ensemble for William Walton’s masterpiece, Belshazzar’s Feast.
They toured the American southeast and performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” at the Florida International Music Festival in Daytona Beach in 1967 with the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 1967, Robert Shaw arrived and he saw to it that the Choral Guild of Atlanta play an important role in the programming of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s season. When the Atlanta Symphony Chorus was established, the Choral Guild renewed its independent status.
Accompanist and assistant conductor Thomas Schwartz took over in 1975, just in time to get ready for a pair of bicentennial concerts that comprised Charles Knox’s “Psalm of Praise” and M. Lee Suitor’s “Motet: Psalm 51”. In November 1977, they joined the Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Community Orchestra for two performances of Carmina Buranaby Carl Orff.
In 1978, William Noll became Music Director and he helped them gain exposure on the airwaves, broadcasting concerts on NPR’s Performance Today, Parkway Productions’ America in Concert, and Atlanta’s own WPBA-Channel 30/WABE-FM 90.1.
They made their debut at Carnegie Hall in April 1980 with a concert of Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, in tandem with the Opera Orchestra of New York. So successful was it that the two groups reprised their performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Lincoln Center in New York.
In April 1985, they made their European debut in Belgium with Orchestre des Juenes de la Communaute Francaise de Belgique in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor. They and the Sandy Springs Chamber Orchestra premiered the expanded and revised version of Curtis Bryant’s Magnificat in 1986.
In 1988, they collaborated with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra on a pair of concerts inAtlanta to New York to commemorate the millennium of Christianity in The Ukraine. Other groups with whom they have collaborated include the Lee Harper Dancers, the Macon Symphony, and the Savannah Symphony.
They gave the world premiere of The Lessons of Time by James Oliverio at the christening of Atlanta’s Fernbank Science Center in October 1992.
In the 1993-1994 season, Dr. Richard Zielinski offered up an adventurous program that featured Henryk Gorecki’s “Amen, Opus 34”, V.E. Soto’s Domite mi Nino, and an arrangement of “Siph’ Amandla” by Anders Nyberg.
Gregory Colson took the reins in 1994 and on his watch, the Guild performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat, David Fanshawe’s “African Sanctus”, Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 2” (“Hymn of Praise”), John Rutter’s Magnificat, and Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Georgia Tech Chorale.
His successor was James Bohart, who assumed the posts of conductor and musical director in 1997. During his time with the choir, it commissioned “The Children’s Song of the Nativity” in honour of Mabel Boyter and in memoriam, Haskell Boyter.
The Guild went down under in 2000 for pre-Summer Olympics performances at the Cairns Choral Society Center, Newcastle Town Hall, and Sydney Town Hall. They presented H.H.A. Beach’s Grand Mass in E flat in the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church on 12th November 2000. Some members of the Guild did a European mini-tour in July 2004, with visits to the Basilika Wilten in Innsbruck, Austria, the Hallstatt Catholic Church in Salzburg, Austria, and the Holy Trinity Church in Bern, Switzerland. On 24th October 2010, the Guild opened their 2010-2011 season with a concert at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church with the Chancel Choir. Their holiday concert, Christmas Around the World, was held at Northside Drive Baptist Church on 12th December 2010. Recordings on which they appear include The Joy of Christmas, Martha Stewart Living Music: Classical Favorites for the Holidays, and The Ultimate Classical Christmas Album of All Time.
Choral Guild of Atlanta recordings
O Come, All Ye Faithful (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Arranger – John Rutter
Chestnut Brass Company
Organist – Anthony Newman
(CD: The Joy of Christmas)
Here they re in a performance of “Kalinka”…