THE I. SHERMAN GREENE CHORALE, INC.
The I. Sherman Greene Chorale, Inc., renowned locally and nationally as one of the leading exponents of choral music, continues to earn accolades for its performance of the music of the Masters, as well as its interpretation of traditional Negro Spirituals.
In the year 1972, Mrs. Vivian Carter Mason, Chairperson of the Norfolk Committee for the Improvement of Education, requested that Mr. I. Sherman Greene, Choral Director at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia, coordinate the music for her organization’s Negro History Week observance. Mr. Greene acquiesced and assembled a group of his former students (some of the best singers in the Hampton Roads area). Their remarkable performance of Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast” provided the foundation upon which this civic, semi-professional choir was organized.
Originally, the Chorale was comprised solely of Booker T. Washington alumni who had sung under Mr. Greene’s direction in the renowned Booker T. Washington High School Choir. Through the years, membership expanded and currently also includes other community singers as well as undergraduate and graduate college students.
Mr. Greene, master musician and choir director, led the Chorale through successful performances of REQUIEM MASSES by Mozart, Brahms, and Verdi. Under his baton, the Chorale also received acclaim for its performance and interpretation of Negro Spirituals, Show Tunes, and other major choral works. Under the tutelage and direction of this exceptional musician, teacher and mentor, the Chorale set the standard by which many future singing groups would be judged.
Dr. Carl Wheatley Haywood assumed musical and administrative leadership of the Chorale upon Mr. Greene’s premature resignation due to illness. Dr. Haywood, himself a master musician, conductor, arranger and educator, not only continued Mr. Greene’s legacy of excellence, but took the Chorale to new musical heights. Through his efforts, hard work, and perseverance in the pursuit of his goals for the choir, the Chorale became one of the premier African-
American ensembles in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Under Dr. Haywood’s baton, the Chorale received outstanding reviews for its performance of Haydn’s “Creation”, Beethoven’s “Mass in C”, Mendelssohn’s “St. Paul’s Oratorio”, Brahms’ “Requiem”, Undine Moore’s “Scenes from the Life of A Martyr”, and Dett’s “Ordering of Moses”. Additionally, the Chorale premiered Adolphus Hailstork’s “Done Made My Vow” with the Virginia Symphony and delighted music lovers when it joined conductor Skitch Henderson and the Virginia Pops Orchestra in the concert performance of “Porgy and Bess”.
The Chorale premiered “The Haywood Collection of Negro Spirituals” and sang to a capacity audience at the opening of the “Union of Black Episcopalians Conference” at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Its performance of Handel’s “Messiah” and Rutter’s “Gloria” have been classified as some of the finest productions of these choral works in the Hampton Roads area.
Mr. Terry William Butler was appointed as Music Director by the Chorale’s Board of Directors following Dr. Haywood’s retirement in August, 2004. Ms. LaVerne Wiggins was appointed to the position of Executive Director. Mr. Butler, a young and exceptionally gifted musician who had served as accompanist for the Chorale during Dr. Haywood’s tenure, was qualified, capable, and clearly the best musician to undertake the awesome, but rewarding task of leading the Chorale.
Mr. Butler’s inaugural season with the Chorale featured a stellar performance of Daniel Pinkham’s “Christmas Cantata”. In October, 2005, the Chorale also premiered the cantata “Crispus Attucks”, which was conducted by its composer, Adolphus Hailstork, at the historic Crispus Attucks Cultural Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Also to Mr. Butler’s credit, the Chorale received enthusiastically favorable reviews for its performance of “The Seven Last Words of Christ”, a sacred cantata with orchestral accompaniment, by Theodore DuBois.
Mr. Butler, a proficient organist, pianist and conductor, embodied the spirit of his predecessors, but also possessed his own vision for the Chorale. Under his direction, the group expanded its performance venues, broadened and diversified its repertory, and added current and former NSU students to its membership. The Chorale’s participation in the “Arts Within Reach” program, sponsored by the Norfolk Commission on the Arts and Humanities, assisted in presenting many genres of music to a larger segment of the Hampton Roads population.
Dr. Sheila M. Harleston was appointed as Music Director by the Chorale’s Board of Directors following Mr. Butler’s resignation in 2012. Dr. Harleston, master musician, conductor, pianist, teacher, and mentor had recently retired from the University of Maryland (Eastern Shore) and was perfect for the Chorale. Under her direction, the Chorale further diversified its repertory and membership while presenting impressive concerts accompanied by orchestral ensembles. A highlight of her tenure was the successful revival of the performance of “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast” by Samuel Coleridge Taylor.
Ms. Elizabeth V. Eccles was appointed to the position of Music Director in 2013. Ms. Eccles, outstanding musician, educator, conductor, vocalist, and mentor, is a former student of Mr. Greene and is exceptionally capable and qualified to carry on his legacy. Under her direction, the Chorale continues to preserve its reputation as one of the leading exponents of choral music in the area. Its concerts, comprised of choral compositions from several genres, continue to attract music lovers from far and near.
The Chorale’s Annual Subscription consists of:
The Christmas Concert in December
The Salute to Black Composers Concert in February
The Spring Concert in May
An exciting addition to the Chorale’s 2016-2017 season was the presentation of “The People’s Concert”, the fourth September, 2016. This annual performance is free and open to the public.
The success of this outstanding choir can be attributed to the vision of its outstanding founder, Mr. I. Sherman Greene; to the unwavering dedication of the Music Directors and Executive Directors, past and present; to the committed, talented, and faithful singers; to the dedicated and supportive Board of Directors; and to the financial and moral support of Community Patrons, all of which combine to perpetuate Mr. Greene’s legacy through the provision of a wealth of aesthetic, rich, and diverse choral music experiences.