Chorus celebrates diversity, peace with music
Community Renewal Chorus
The Community Renewal Chorus Benefit Concert
Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, 405 S. Euclid, Oak Park
3 p.m. May 20
Tickets are $20 and $15 for groups of 10 or more. Children under 12 are free
Call (773) 414-1294 or visit www.crchorus.org
Updated: May 15, 2012 9:35PM
Though it has been operating for nearly 10 years now without the support of the church organization that sustained it for more than three decades, the Community Renewal Chorus is still strongly committed to its organizing principles of diversity and equality.
See for yourself when the CRC performs its annual benefit concert Sunday at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church in Oak Park. The program, led by longtime director Gerome Bell, includes an excerpt from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” Handel’s “And So Shall Your Light Shine,” and Bruckner’s “Te Deum,” plus gospel music and Korean and African folk songs.
The chorus was founded and originally directed in 1970 by Oak Park’s Harriet Ilse Ziegenhals as a program of the urban mission arm of the United Church of Christ in Chicago. It functioned for the next 33 years as an outreach of the church until financial reverses after 9/11 forced it to cut the program.
At that point, the members of the choir, many of whom had been singing together for decades, met in retreat and decided to carry on as an independent organization, still dedicated to promoting and celebrating diversity, equality, peace and justice through music.
In its time, the CRC has been featured in Chicago civic events such as the public memorial service for Mayor Harold Washington, and it has frequently toured as a friendship ambassador to countries such as Romania, Poland, the former U.S.S.R., Hungary, Yugoslavia, China, Japan, Mexico and Ireland.
“We strive to be an excellent performing group, but we undergird every piece of music with our mission,” said CRC board president Janine Katonah, who has been a member of the chorus for 41 years, beginning one year after its inception.
Time well spent
Katonah said the last
time she stopped to
calculate how much time
she had devoted to the
chorus, just in rehearsal
time alone, the figure tallied up to something like three years — time she considered well spent. She also noted that she is hardly the only one who has made a long-term commitment to the group, “and that’s what makes this musical experience so special.”
“It’s been an economic struggle for us,” Katonah said, noting that membership has decreased from a high of 75 or 80 singers to roughly 50, and that the group’s once-large youth choir, All God’s Children, is temporarily out of action during a period of re-grouping and reformation.
The CRC will always continue as it has, however, she asserted, as long as there is a need for its mission: “And that is to embrace all cultures, races, faith perspectives, economic backgrounds and sexual orientations, all the variety of groups in the urban tapestry — and to stand against racism and injustice.”