Markus Winkler via Unsplash

The Oratorio Society of New Jersey, a community choir based in Montclair, has elected a new board of trustees. The board consists of four officers and eight trustees who will be responsible for managing all business at the choir.

Without the opportunity to rehearse in person or to perform publicly due to the coronavirus pandemic, the board developed numerous efforts to maintain the vitality of the choir and its connection to the community, including ongoing virtual rehearsals and coaching sessions, a streaming event that featured highlights from previous  concerts, and a virtual holiday Messiah sing to take the place of the in-person Messiah sings that the choir has long held at St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair.

“One real hidden benefit of the pandemic was that we started doing coaching sessions, where I taught the choir more about the music that we plan to sing. I think that deeper understanding of what’s behind the music we sing will lead to even better performances,” Sándor Szabó, who has been the director of the choir since 2005, wrote in an announcement.

Peter Braley of Montclair was elected president, replacing Susan Ladov, also of Montclair, who had served as president for the previous five years. Braley was previously the trustee for fund-raising on the board.

“The experience of having to manage the choir through such a difficult time helped the board to become more flexible and experimental in its approach. I’m looking forward to building on that experience so that OSNJ can grow as a key element of Essex County’s cultural fabric,” Braley wrote in the announcement.

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Ladov will continue serving on the board as a trustee at large.

“I was so fortunate to have the support, insights and talents of a wonderful group of board members as we dealt with the challenges of the pandemic.  We all really missed seeing each other in-person each week and having the chance to sing together, but the board met frequently via zoom and never stopped looking for ways to keep us all connected with each other and our audience,” Ladov wrote in the announcement. “Virtual rehearsals were an ongoing challenge due to the limits of our technology, but we learned from the experience, and I think we may be closer as a group for having gone through this.”

In addition to Braley and Ladov, the following individuals were elected to the board: Grace Baumgarten (Bloomfield), Bette Chamberlin (Montclair), Norma Messing (Short Hills), Scott Miller (Little Falls), Helen Paxton (Montclair), Cia Siebert (Montclair), Jean Siegel (Montclair), Robert Simmons (West Orange), Stuart Turnbull (West Orange), and John Willard (West Orange).

The choir is planning a concert for the fall. The program will feature compositions by Palestrina, Vivaldi, Purcell, and Britten. The choir has also entered into a partnership with Grace Episcopal Church in Newark and will be collaborating with the church choir to present a concert in the church sanctuary in the fall as well.

The choir is looking for new singers in all vocal parts. No auditions are required, but previous experience singing choral music is preferred. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at First Lutheran Church located on 153 Park Street at 8 p.m.

Additional information on the event can be found at oratoriosocietynj.org or Facebook.com/oratoriosocietyofnj/.