OSNJ performs at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, prior to COVID-19. COURTESY ORATORIO SOCIETY OF NEW JERSEY

Oratorio Society of New Jersey
Outdoor rehearsal
Masks required, singers can bring own chairs
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 6:30 p.m.
Parking lot of First Lutheran Church of Montclair,

153 Park St.
Rain date: Tuesday, Sept. 22

“Unmasked: Selections from the Vault”
Saturday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m.
Livestreaming of archived performances

Facebook live


Singing together is not possible on Zoom: The slight time delay means that it is impossible to synchronize parts or hear harmonies quite right.

Montclair’s Oratorio Society of New Jersey is holding an in-person rehearsal, outside, on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the First Lutheran Church.


“It’s really an experiment,” said Helen Paxton, program chair of the community chorus. “Generally our first rehearsal in the fall we do a meet-and-greet prior to rehearsal.”

OSNJ has a rain date for the following week.

Singers should wear a mask and bring a lawn chair if desired.

The Oratorio Society was founded in 1952; the current director and conductor is Sándor Szabó. Usually the chorus is about 60-strong.

The chorus is unusual in that there are no auditions: Those who are interested can join, although the music is quite difficult. The only requirement is that people can read music. The chorus often includes retired singers as well as people with no training who love to sing. Soloists are usually professionals.

Now that the governor has approved indoor gatherings with a restricted capacity, with social distancing in play, OSNJ will consider how to conduct rehearsals going forward. The board will reconvene after next week’s outdoor rehearsal, Paxton said.

Possibly the group will hold rehearsals for voice parts separately, she added.

Like many arts groups, OSNJ is having a streamed presentation that is a collection of archived performances; theirs will be held on Oct. 3. OSNJ President Susan Ladov and 

Szabo will introduce some of the recordings.

This year’s program for OSNJ is still being determined. “We have talked about doing a different program that’s ‘easier to rehearse.’ We were working on the ‘Missa Solemnis” by Beethoven, but it’s very demanding,” Paxton said. That concert, which would have been the fall concert, has been tabled until the spring — assuming the group can meet in person to rehearse it.

“We feel like we’re in limbo,” she said.





One thing Montclairians can count on is OSNJ’s annual “Community Messiah Sing,” which takes place in December.

“We are working with the town to see if we can do it outdoors, with an electric piano, on the same night of the tree lighting,” Paxton said. This year’s concert would probably include choruses from Handel’s “Messiah,” without the solo arias, and other holiday music.

“We are trying to gauge the temperature of our members in terms of their willingness to sing this year in a group setting. We have done some Zoom rehearsals, but they are not that satisfying,” Paxton said. “Choral singing is not just about music, but also about the social interaction.  It really brings people together, literally.”

Score and a pencil: tools of an OSNJ singer. COURTESY ORATORIO SOCIETY OF NEW JERSEY