The Edmond Community Chorale (ECC) was founded in the fall of 1988 by Dr. Lon Dehnert. Earlier that year, Dr. Dehnert, the director of Choral Studies at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), had been approached regarding the opportunity for his ensembles to perform with the world-renowned conductor and composer, John Rutter. Dr. Dehnert had plans to create a community choir in Edmond, as one had not existed for over 17 years. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity, he reached out to university students and staff as well as church choirs to seek members for the new Edmond Community Chorale.
With approximately twenty members, ECC held its first concert in the fall of 1988, performing Gloria by Francis Poulenc. This would be the first of many concerts where ECC would combine voices with UCO choirs to perform a major work, such as Gloria, in the UCO Masterworks Concert. During the first year, a Board of Directors was created, bylaws were written, and the group applied for and received incorporation and 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit organization.
In the spring of 1989, members of ECC had the unique opportunity to travel to New York City to perform in Carnegie Hall under the direction of John Rutter. Approximately 250 singers from choirs throughout the United States joined with the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra to perform Rutter’s Requiem.
Founded as a town & gown (community and university) choral ensemble, ECC was created to provide a high quality musical experience for singers in Edmond and the greater metropolitan area. Membership is open to any singer who loves high quality choral music and has the ability to match pitch. During any given season it would not be unusual to see a teenager sitting and singing next to an eighty year old. This is part of what makes ECC unique.
During most of the last 20-plus seasons the Chorale performed two major concerts, the first in December and the second as part of the Masterworks Concert in the spring. As part of the Masterworks Concert, ECC combines with choirs from UCO to perform works such as, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Requiems by Brahms, Rutter and Mozart, Saint-Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio, Poulenc’s Gloria, Randall Thompson’s Testament of Freedom and Peaceable Kingdom, and numerous others. For these concerts, ECC has used soloists from around the United States and Oklahoma including the New York baritone, Ian Geller, Florida soprano, Meredith Hanebutt, and the Texas soprano Julie McCoy. These soloists have sung with the UCO orchestra, the Oklahoma Community Orchestra, members of the Oklahoma City Symphony and, in New York’s Carnegie Hall, with the Manhattan Symphony, Orchestra under the baton of John Rutter. On occasion, ECC is joined by other local community choirs including the Norman Community Choral Society.
In addition to concerts in and around Edmond and the concert in New Your City, members of ECC have had the opportunity to perform abroad. In the spring of 1999, ECC performed in the Second International Festival of Choirs in Siena, Italy. In addition to Siena, this tour took ECC members to the beautiful Italian cities of Rome, Spoleto, Florence and Venice. Two years later, in the spring of 2001, ECC traveled to Ireland and England to perform Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Young’s Missa Brevis, and a collection of American folk music.
In the spring of 2008, when we gathered to celebrate the music and history of the Edmond Community Chorale, we also commemorate the devoted service of our founder, Dr. Lon Dehnert. It was his vision that lead us to this milestone concert. That evening, Dr. Dehnert conducted his last concert as the official Artistic Director of the Edmond Community Chorale. After twenty great years, Dr. Dehnert retired to Lawrence, KS.
In the fall of 2008, ECC welcomed a new Artistic Director, Dr. Karl Nelson. Since August 2006, Dr. Nelson has served as the Director of Choral Studies at UCO where he conducts the Chamber Singers and Concert Chorale. In addition, Dr. Nelson serves as the Director of the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Chancel Choir in Edmond. ECC had the opportunity to work with Dr. Nelson in the spring of 2007 when he conducted the UCO Masterworks concert, performing Mozart’s Requiem in d minor.
In the fall of 2008, ECC performed with Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy in a concert performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel produced by UCO’s Broadway Tonight. In May 2010, ECC traveled to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall to perform John Rutter’s Mass of the Children with sIngers from across the U.S. under the baton of John Rutter himself. In recent years, ECC has had the opportunity to collaborate with the UCO Symphony Orchestra, Horseshoe Road and the UCO Jazz Ensemble I for performances of Requiem by Johannes Brahms, World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass by Carol Barnett and Music from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, respectively. ECC members have also recently performed Joseph Haydn’s Paukenmesse for the Oklahoma Haydn Festival in June 2013 as well as works by Giuseppe Verdi in Syros, Greece as part of the Festival of the Agean in July 2013.
After over six wonderful years of service to ECC, in the spring of 2014, Dr. Nelson resigned as Artistic Director to focus on other priorities, including his wife and children. That fall, ECC hired Rondal J. Wallace as Artistic Director. Mr. Wallace had valuably served as the Assistant Director and Accompanist of ECC for over 23 years. ECC also welcomed a new accompanist to the ECC family, John L. Edwards — a well-admired musician. Under the creative influence of Mr. Wallace and Mr. Edwards, ECC performed many wonderful pieces including Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Vaughan Williams’s Epithalamion.
Since ECC’s inception in 1988, the chorale, like much of the world, found itself in uncharted waters in March 2020 when we were forced to stop rehearsals, mid-season, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. After several unsuccessful attempts to restart rehearsals, thwarted by spikes in COVID-19 cases, ECC commenced rehearsals in the fall of 2022, but with new artistic direction.
In the fall of 2021, following many years of devoted service, Ron Wallace and John Edwards resigned as the creative team of ECC. The 2022-2023 Season ushered in a new creative team with Artistic Director, Dr. Tracey Gregg-Boothby, and Accompanist, Dr. Sallie Pollack. Dr. Gregg-Boothby serves as Professor of Music at Rose State College and Assistant Director of Worship Arts: Choral Music at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond. An Oklahoma-based pianist, Dr. Pollack is Professor of Collaborative Piano at the University of Central Oklahoma where she also serves as the Piano Division Head. After a two-year hiatus, in the fall of 2022, ECC collaborated with other local choirs to present one of Bach’s most famous choral works, the Christmas Oratorio, which brilliantly and triumphantly tells the story of Jesus’ birth and adoration.