An all volunteer auditioned group of experienced amateur singers, Collegium Vocale is a community chorus dedicated to excellence in the performance of classical choral music. One of Atlanta’s oldest choral ensembles, Collegium Vocale traces its roots to 1955, when Homer F. Edwards Jr., an Emory University lecturer in music, formed a choral ensemble to sing a cappella works from the late Renaissance and Baroque. That original group included Emory students, faculty and their spouses, and community members.
Edwards left Atlanta in the summer of 1963 for Wayne State University. William Lemonds, who joined the Emory University music faculty in 1964, revived the community ensemble for a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in April 1965. The group settled on the name Collegium Musicum (society of musicians), and continued performing under the baton of Lemonds for twenty-three years. During his tenure, Collegium Musicum performed a joint concert each spring with the Emory Glee Club, Women’s Chorale and Atlanta-Emory Orchestra.
In the fall of 1986, newly appointed Emory University Director of Choral Studies Ann Howard Jones took over the helm, and Collegium Musicum continued to perform as part of the Emory combined choral forces. Robert Shaw, who for a time held the post of distinguished university professor, directed the Emory ensembles in a memorable performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in January 1987 in Atlanta’s Symphony Hall. In 1988, Al Calabrese replaced Ann Howard Jones. Under his direction, the group’s name was changed to Collegium Vocale (society of voices). In 1992, Dr. Calabrese resigned as director.
Katherine Murray was selected in 1993, and brought with her the group’s now indispensable accompanist Leanne Elmer Herrmann. Ms. Murray was Collegium Vocale’s first director recruited from outside the Emory music faculty, a practice the ensemble has continued. While it retains strong ties to Emory, in 1994 Collegium Vocale became an independent, nonprofit organization.
Under Ms. Murray’s direction, the group performed two concerts each year at Emory, as well as occasional joint concerts with groups outside the Emory community, including Orchestra Atlanta and the Chattanooga Choral Arts Society. In the spring of 1998, under the direction of Marian Dolan, Collegium Vocale joined Emory’s Candler Choraliers to present a special program in honor of the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The performance featured the southeastern premier of Robert Levin’s completion of Mozart’s Requiem. In the spring of 1999, Murray said farewell, although she continues to perform as a soloist with Collegium Vocale on occasion.
In the summer of 1999, the Board of Directors selected Erin Freeman, a gifted young musician (and former music student of Katherine Murray), who also held positions with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra. Under Ms. Freeman’s direction, Collegium Vocale performed with the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde, and joined the Savannah Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Ms. Freeman resigned in 2001 to pursue her doctorate in orchestral conducting with Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory. She is currently music director of the Richmond Philharmonic.
Once again the Board recruited, and the membership selected Kevin Hibbard, professor of music and director of choirs at the State University of West Georgia. Under Dr. Hibbard’s direction, Collegium Vocale made its debut performance at Spivey Hall in November 2002, returning to Spivey for the 2004 Summer Conference of the Georgia ACDA (American Choral Director’s Association). In March 2003, Collegium Vocale gave its debut performance in Emerson Concert Hall in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
Collegium Vocale has twice been invited to participate in the annual Emory Choral Festival, and has performed a joint concert with the Chancel Choir at St. James United Methodist Church (where long time Collegium director William Lemonds was music director for 22 years). Ensemble members also performed the Beethoven Choral Fantasy with the Carroll Symphony Orchestra, and the Mozart Requiem with the State University of West Georgia Concert Choir.
In 2005, Collegium Vocale celebrated its 50th year as a community chorus with a gala performance at the Schwartz Center. Former directors Kate Murray and Erin Freeman returned to conduct Collegium Vocale with orchestral accompaniment. The performance concluded with Music Director Kevin Hibbard conducting the Poulenc Gloria featuring soprano soloist Arietha Lockhart.
In spring 2006, the group performed the premiere of Prelude to the Divine Conversation, a new work by Atlanta composer Nickitas Demos, commissioned in memory of Angela Ioannides, who sang with our chorus for many years. In spring 2007, we performed the Southeast premiere of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by British composer Karl Jenkins with the University of West Georgia Concert Choir.
Dr. Hibbard is one of the longest-serving music directors in the group’s history.
Collegium Vocale is proud to enter its second half-century as a community chorus. Choral singing is far and away the most popular public arts activity in America, with more people participating in choral singing than in any other performing art. Collegium Vocale looks forward to another half century of music making as part of the vibrant Atlanta choral music scene.