The mission of the Bloomington Chambers Singers is to perform choral works and, thereby, provide opportunities for performance, education, and community service for the Bloomington area.
Bloomington Chamber Singers (BCS) is a community-based, nonprofit corporation registered with Indiana and Federal agencies, and owned and governed by its singers, each of whom is a voting member of the Corporation.
BCS provides a rare opportunity for amateur singers to perform major choral works and to hone their craft under the guidance of a professional conductor. The excellence of the ensemble is reflected by the large number of individuals who audition each year, the group’s membership continuity, the consistently large audiences we draw from Bloomington and several surrounding counties, and our laudatory reviews. Over the years, BCS has increased in size, developed an effective governing infrastructure with appropriate financial resources, and most importantly achieved a well-recognized high level of musicianship and breadth of repertoire.
Art is one of the most characteristic human activities there is, enriching and improving us all. There is, simply put, no culture anywhere in the world that does not sing, and our activities provide something no other community organization does. We are not a religious group per se, although the greatest number of our concerts are centered on the religious music of the West because that is where the repertoire of our common cultural tradition lies. Our first choices are always aesthetic, but we are cognizant of the values of the communities we serve and try to choose pieces that are not only beautiful but valuable emotionally and intellectually.
In addition to our annual concert series, BCS enriches the community in other ways. During the holiday season we carol on the Courthouse Square and in downtown shopping areas. For many years, BCS has invited the public to join in an open sing-along of the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah. An average of 300 singers and listeners attend each year to enjoy this annual tradition, which benefits the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.
BCS is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors, elected by the members. The President is the Chief Executive Officer of the corporation and works closely with the Music Director in managing the activities of the group. Typically, our singers compose the Board, although occasionally a member is drawn from the larger community.
The music staff consists of three paid professionals:
1. Music Director (Gerald Sousa): The Music Director is responsible for the artistic direction of the ensemble, developing each season’s concert schedule and overseeing the musical preparation.
2. Assistant Music Director (Greg Geehern): The Assistant Director acts in close collaboration with the Music Director in the preparation for and production of all our activities.
3. Accompanist (Greg Geehern): The accompanist provides the piano support during rehearsals and frequently also is a member of the concert orchestra.
In addition to the core music staff, BCS engages soloists and instrumentalists as appropriate to the repertoire. BCS maintains a close working relationship with the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, and is privileged to collaborate frequently with outstanding faculty and student artists.
MUSIC DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHY
Gerald Sousa has held the position of Music Director since 1990. Dr. Sousa received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his doctorate in Choral Conducting, summa cum laude, from Indiana University. He has held positions at the University of New Orleans, Dartmouth College, and the University of North Carolina, and has performed professionally at the Aspen Summer Music Festival. Dr. Sousa is currently Director of Music at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Bloomington, and is active throughout the region as an arts advocate and technology consultant. He has served on the boards of local arts organizations, including the former Bloomington Area Arts Council, which he led as President for a number of years.
Under Dr. Sousa’s artistic direction, the Bloomington Chamber Singers have performed the great choral-orchestral masterworks, commissioned new works from area composers, and sung a wide variety of music drawn from the a cappella choral repertoire. Widely recognized for his innovative programming and consistently outstanding artistic achievements, Sousa has developed the ensemble into a vital part of the Bloomington musical scene.
The Bloomington Chamber Ensemble was organized in 1970 by Ann Kearns, a flutist with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. In its first few years as the BCE, the somewhat less formal group numbered perhaps two dozen singers. In 1980, the name was changed to the Bloomington Chamber Singers and was legally established as a nonprofit corporation with formal by-laws and board of directors.
When Gerald Sousa became conductor of BCS in the fall of 1989, it was only the second time that the choir was led by a musician with a completed doctorate and significant professional experience. Under Sousa’s baton, the group has performed many great masterworks, including J. S. Bach’s two great Passions and B minor Mass, Haydn’s Creation and Seasons, Mozart’s C minor Mass and Requiem, Brahms’ Requiem, and such secular works as Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. A Messiah Sing was introduced after Sousa’s first year with BCS, and has been an annual contribution to the community since that time.
Over the years, BCS has matured into a vital part of the Bloomington musical scene. It has grown to near 70 singers, constantly increased its level of musicianship and ambition, and achieved an impressive level of financial and administrative stability. Several years ago an assistant conductor was added to the staff, funded in part by a generous anonymous donor. This position now is filled by Greg Geehern, a gifted doctoral student in the IU Jacobs School. The dramatic evolution of BCS has been the result of the effective combination of the music staff’s long-term commitment and artistic vision, the dynamic dedication of its Board of Directors, and the selfless focus of its singers.
What began in 1970 as the fledgling Bloomington Chamber Ensemble has steadily grown into one of the leading choral ensembles in the region, with a unique prominence in the Bloomington arts community.