The Chorus of Communities is an ecumenical choir made up of voices from over 20 different church communities in northeastern New Jersey. It was organized in 1990 by officials of the Belleville Clergy Alliance (then called the Belleville Ministerium) and of Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, NJ. The principal organizers were William Moore and Rev. Nancy Moore of Bethany Lutheran Church (shown on the right) and Rev. Arthur Schute and Lewis Gardner of Clara Maass Medical Center. The goal of their effort was to promote community spirit, togetherness, and culture through the presentation of edifying sacred concerts to the glory of God, as well as to support the Pastoral Care Ministry at Clara Maass.
The first Steering Committee meeting was held on Dec 15, 1989 at St. Peter's Catholic Church, Belleville, where the idea took shape. The first concert, Handel's MESSIAH, was performed on Dec 16, 1990 at St. Peter's and was an outstanding success. The performance was conducted by William Moore, with Rev. Nancy Moore as organist, and with 5 professional soloists and a professional orchestral ensemble (see were also performed at the April 1993 concert by soprano Jennifer DiDino.
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During the 1990's the Chorus received outstanding support from several pastors in the area. The Chorus is grateful to:
- Rev. Arthur B. Schute, Pastoral Care, Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville
- Rev. Howard Day, Montgomery Presbyterian Church, Belleville
- Rev. Daniel Weitner , First Presbyterian Church, North Arlington
- Rev. Jung Yong Na, Wesley United Methodist Church, Belleville
- Msgr. Richard Groncki, St. Valentine Catholic Church, Bloomfield
- Msgr. Robert Chabak , St. Valentine Catholic Church, Bloomfield
- Rev. Nancy Moore , Bethany Lutheran Church, Belleville
- Rev. Sandra Moore,
- Rev. John F. Salmon, Jr., Church of the Advent, Bloomfield
- Rev. Gregory Horn, Fewsmith Memorial Presbyterian Church, Belleville
In March 2000 the Chorus celebrated its 10th anniversary with a banquet, award ceremony, and dancing at the Chandelier Restaurant in Belleville. It was a happy time for all, an ebullient time for some. Shown to the right are Jennifer Williams, Taylor Fisher-Rubbins, and Steve Olivo.
In November 2000 the Chorus was able to purchase a set of high-quality professional risers, thanks to special "riser fund" donations from the following benefactors:
- Belleville Rotary Club
- Dr. & Mrs. Jack Grundfest
- Assemblyman John V. Kelly
- Mr. Rene Gabbai
- Kiwanis Club of Belleville
- Belleville Lions Club
- Nutley Lions Club
- Several other generous individuals
The Chorus has been featured many times at the Belleville Public Library as part of its yuletide cultural program. The mayor and other Belleville town officials have often attended these library concerts. On Sept 11, 2002 the Chorus was featured at the town of Belleville's official 9/11 memorial -- a moving, patriotic ceremony of song and speech held at the library.
In recent years the Chorus has engaged the students of Belleville and Nutley High Schools, encouraging talented young singers to participate with the Chorus and experience some of the world's great choral masterpieces. Shown on the right are students Jimmy Stolz, Jennifer Henry, Arden Beesley, and Natalie Nachinson. In December 2002, the Chorus and a 30-strong Belleville High School "select chorus" combined forces to do joint concerts at both St. Valentine Church and Belleville High School.
William and Nancy Moore retired from the Chorus (as conductor and organist) in June 2006. The baton was picked up by their daughter, Rev. Sandra Moore Wanamaker, who did an outstanding job leading the Chorus during the following two seasons. In September 2008 the baton was passed to the Chorus's current conductor, a friend of the Moore family, Mr. William Buthod. Mr. Buthod has a long and distinguished background as organist, conductor, and composer.
To date, the Chorus has raised well over $10,000 for Clara Maass Medical Center. Specifically, this money has been donated to the Pastoral Care department and the Safe House at Clara Maass. Shown here is Patty Lue Boff, Manager of Safe House, receiving a donation check. With her are Dee Freedman and Rev. Nancy Moore.
After much planning and hard work, the Chorus of Communities performed its inaugural concert -- Handel's "Messiah" on December 16, 1990 at St. Peter's Church in Belleville, N.J. There were 77 choral singers, a 13-member orchestra and 5 professional soloists. The group picture below was taken during the dress rehearsal.
In the center of the first standing row is conductor Bill Moore (wearing tie). The next person to the right is organist Pastor Nancy Moore (wearing collar). Next right is soprano soloist Evelyn Santiago-Rodriguez (wearing red). Next right is lyric-soprano soloist Barbara Shirvis (blond hair). Soprano soloist Luann Lindemann appears in the upper left corner (dark brown hair).
An independent review of the inaugural concert was written by Russell Roemmele of the Belleville Times and published in the December 20, 1990 issue. The review is presented below.
BELLEVILLE TIMES, December 20, 1990
CHORUS OF COMMUNITIES Praises the Lord and Probably Pleased Handel
by Russell Roemmele
On Sunday, George Fredrick Handel must have had ten thousand performances of his divine "Messiah" to monitor -- and often most patiently endure -- as he prepares the Cherubins and Seraphins for celestial Christmas services. Bach had the task last year; Handel, this.
Surely, Handel, in viewing the world at song, must have paused when he listened to "Messiah" performed at St. Peter's Church in Belleville.
This "Messiah" (most of the Christmas portion thereof) was the inaugural performance of CHORUS OF COMMUNITIES, made up of members of church choirs locally in addition to "individuals in Northern New Jersey who love choral singing".
Father Arthur Schute, managing director, pastoral care department of Clara Maass Medical Center, advises that the Belleville Ministerium "has as its special focus supporting pastoral care at CMMC, which helps to meet the religious and spiritual needs of patients and their families whatever their religious affiliation may be".
Proceeds from the concert -- and the medium-sized church pews were filled -- go to assist this beneficial service.
Energetic William Moore conducted an outstanding version of Handel's greatest work, which is rival to Bach's "Passion of St. John" in choral works in the eyes of knowledgeable critics, if not the eyes of the Lord Himself. That it is in English and the verse reminds one of the King James irreplaceable poetry, makes this "classical" work sacred, yet understandable and warm.
Moreover, Moore, who must have directed this work a dozen times in his 38-year career, knows his Handel. He sings along with the chorus and the soloists, and during orchestral interludes, too! He should come back again and again. His musicianship, his tolerance, and his fervent conducting inspire performers and, let it be noted well, the audience.
Moore was assisted by five competent soloists, with tenor Donald Sapara setting the tone early in controlling the difficult air, "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted".
Sapara was followed by a remarkable bass, William Burke, about whom more will be heard, I should hope. His bass is probably not as refined in the lowest tones and he does fleetingly touch baritone range but his handling of the air "The People That Walk In Darkness" was overwhelming in delivery. Coming as it did, just before "For Unto Us a Child Is Born", Burke's dramatic contrast in feeling was effective, and impressive.
Evelyn Santiago Rodriguez, with beauty as from a Goya painting, has a developing voice, somewhat small at times even for Handel's subdued moments, but with heart-awaking tenderness. Her "O Thou That Tellest Good Tiding To Zion" was unforgettable.
Barbara Shirvis sang "Come Unto Him" with confidence of a true professional. More than routine offering, however, her mature operatic voice penetrated to every holy enclave of the church.
Luann Lindemann radiated joy in her singing of "He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd".
Of the chorus, He shalt be pleased! Dressed in robes of every hue -- the once-common red robes are now surrounded with a rainbow coalition, as it were -- this chorus sang with every voice color imaginable. It was a most acceptable performance, considering that they were singing in their first public concert, after limited rehearsal.
The chorus was more than its singing alone, however. Most inspiring to this writer was its honest emotion, the dedication to singing and to Moore's direction and to George Fredrick Handel himself ... the singing was more than exuberance, one should say, it was of faith itself -- an old-fashioned feeling today, but most evident at St. Peter's Sunday.
Good heavens, I must note the organ support of Rev. Nancy Moore. She did not overwhelm the singers, as some church organists tend to do when carried away with the instrument and, presumably, the Lord.
Lewis Gardner of Clara Maass and the CHORUS OF COMMUNITIES steering committee noted the chorus "builds upon beautiful music to make life more inspiring in our communities". He was right.
Old George stayed through the performance and, I suspect, called up St. Peter and maybe the Lord Himself about these faithful folks at St. Peter's in Belleville. They must come back!