Classic Choral Society began informally in the summer of 1959 when the Reverend Samuel Reinke, pastor of the Blooming Grove Congregational Church (now the Blooming Grove United Church of Christ) invited singers throughout the community to join in the performance of Handel’s MESSIAH in celebration of the church’s 200th anniversary. The conductor was West Point (United States Military Academy) musician, Larry Newland. The special concert was enjoyed, not only by the church’s members but by the whole community. Encouraged by the very successful experience, the singers decided to gather once again in the following year to prepare another program. Those ‘gatherings’ have continued for nearly six decades!
Personnel, of course, changed over the years. In fact, when the time came the next year to meet again, it was learned that Larry Newland would not be available to conduct the group – now officially known as the Orange County Classic Choral Society. Already well-known for his musical career and his work as a writer for the Arthur Godfrey Radio Show, Blooming Grove resident Walter Latzko, graciously took over as music director for the new and growing chorus. Soon after Walter’s work began, Cornwall organist Eleanor Callahan became the Society’s accompanist. After many years of service Eleanor retired, giving chorus member and soloist Janiece Kohler the opportunity to serve as the next accompanist. Not long after that, in 1991, Walter Latzko retired, handing the baton and responsibility of leadership to Janiece. Today, after more than a quarter century, Janiece continues to serve as Classic Choral Society’s Artistic Director and Principal Conductor.
Since that casual beginning in 1959, the Orange County Classic Choral Society has become revered as the Hudson Valley region’s foremost community choral arts organization – a position it holds with great pride.