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Nonprofit Report: Rochester Oratorio Society Inc.

The Rochester Oratorio Society Inc., founded in 1945 and celebrating its 71st anniversary in 2017, is a choral/orchestral ensemble in the Rochester region.

Comprising some 145 auditioned adult members from seven counties, the society produces four to six performances annually, presenting masterworks for chorus and orchestra from the 18th to the 21st century, commissioned works and special, collaborative, multicultural events. In this role, the society has offered the local premieres of works such as the Berlioz Requiem and Britten’s War Requiem and many performances of Handel’s Messiah, under the direction of founder Theodore Hollenbach and successors Roger Wilhelm and Eric Townell.

The Oratorio Society each season produces large, commemorative and collaborative concerts that celebrate aspects of regional life, history and culture.

Recent projects include “Poetry for Peace,” the 2017 retrospective keyed to the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. This collaboration with the University of Rochester Humanities Center featured a month-long series of talks, presentations and panel discussions culminating in two performances by the Oratorio Society and its collegiate partners, the Nazareth College Choir. A similar project commemorating the centennial of Woman Suffrage, also with the Humanities Center, is planned for September-October 2017.

The society has performed concert tours in Italy, Scandinavia, China and Eastern Europe, and a live, one-hour televised concert for WXXI’s “Voices” series; collaborated with the region’s vocalists, instrumentalists, ensembles and artists in other disciplines; commissioned and premiered major works; played host to choirs from Canada and major U.S. cities; appeared regionally in concert venues on college campuses, in performing arts centers and churches; and initiated a solo vocal competition of national stature—Rochester’s Classical Idol—in its 12th year.

Rochester Oratorio Society has long maintained a thriving relationship with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, performing with conductors of national and international distinction, including Leonard Bernstein, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman and Christopher Seaman.

The relationship with the RPO grew with the arrival of artistic director Eric Townell in 2006, who brought professional orchestral conducting and choral preparation experience to his role with the society and who enjoyed a close working relationship with then RPO Music Director Christopher Seaman.

Rochester Oratorio Society, at 1050 East Ave., has four paid staff and its website is www.ROSsings.org.


Financial record                                  Year ended June 30, 2016

Revenue                                                                         %

Contributions, gifts, grants                                     $98,129                    .53

Program service revenue                                         54,365                    .29

Membership dues                                                    10,610                                6

Investment income                                                  (3,999)                    .(2)

Other                                                                      25,625                    .14

Total revenue                                                      $184,730

Expenses                                                                                         %

Salaries, benefits                                                   $88,395                    .48

Performance expense                                              50,248                    .27

Events                                                                    10,699                    .  6

Occupancy                                                               7,289                                4

Equipment/rental                                                       7,166                                4

Music                                                                       5,200                                3

Other                                                                      16,638                                9

Total expenses                                                   $185,635
Excess (deficiency) of revenue over expenses          ($905)


Board of directors

Katherine Clark Walter, president

Marc Smith, vice president

Mario Urso, treasurer

Sandy Moncrief, secretary

David Elrod

Nina Fargnoli

Maryellen Giese

Brigid Harrigan

Jenny Horn

Pati Piper

Sarah Reynolds

Sarah Stage

Lauri Van Hise

Kate Washington

Jeffrey Wright


—Researched by Bill Alden

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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