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Today’s Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was first formed in 1952 at the request of Music Director George Szell, and is currently in its 72nd season. As early as the Orchestra’s third season, in 1920-21, founding manager Adella Prentiss Hughes issued an invitation for Clevelanders to join a Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. It lasted less than a year, with subsequent Orchestra performances of choral works using choruses from local churches and colleges. Soon after Severance Hall opened in 1931, a second Cleveland Orchestra choral ensemble was established. Known as the Cleveland Philharmonic Chorus, it flourished for nearly a decade and provided the choral forces for the many staged operas presented under Music Director Artur Rodzinski’s direction.


Finally, the Orchestra’s fourth music director, George Szell (1946-70), initiated the creation of a permanent chorus to be affiliated with the Orchestra and made up of local singers admitted by audition. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus began performing in 1952 and quickly proved its artistic worth. In 1956, Szell invited the young and nationally prominent choral conductor Robert Shaw to join the Orchestra’s conducting staff as associate conductor and chorus conductor, further solidifying the Chorus’s reputation for quality. The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has maintained its position as a leading American orchestra chorus under the subsequent leadership of choral directors Clayton H. Krehbiel (1967-69), Margaret Hillis (1969-71), Robert Page (1971-89), Gareth Morrell (1989-98), Robert Porco (1998-2017), and Lisa Wong (2017 - present).

Across seven decades, chosen through audition, nearly 3,000 singers from across Northeast Ohio have joined The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to serve as hard-working, focused, song-filled volunteer choristers.  They have rehearsed, prepared, and performed over 150 major choral-orchestral works and operas, as well as singing hundreds of shorter, seasonal, popular, and well-loved favorites — all the while mastering dozens of languages and different musical styles.

The group has been featured on over 1,300 concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra since 1952, including 27 appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, along with tour performances in Miami, Puerto Rico, and across Europe.  The Chorus has also toured on its own, either a capella or with other ensembles, to the Casals Festival in San Juan, Puerto Rico; the Chautauqua Institution in New York; and to venues in England, Wales, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Germany. They have been heard on hundreds of radio broadcasts, appeared in at least a dozen television programs, and participated in more than 30 commercial recordings with The Cleveland Orch­estra — including 7 Grammy Award nominations and 4 Grammy Awards.  They have been featured on 4 private-label box sets created by The Cleveland Orchestra to mark important celebrations, including a special album honoring legendary chorus director Robert Shaw, which featured a range of performances by the Chorus and Orchestra from his years at the helm.

More recently, The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has created eleven albums with The Cleveland Orchestra, filled with joyous and heart-warming Christmas music, and used the power of that music as fund-raising premiums in their many and successful efforts to help defray the cost of touring and operating a chorus. 


The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus is one of the few professionally trained, all-volunteer choruses sponsored by a major American orchestra. Current Chorus members hail from nearly 50 northeast Ohio  communities. Together, the group’s 140 members volunteer more than 30,000 hours annually, through rehearsals and performances. They also raise money for their tours through a variety of projects and events. Current members have service tenures ranging from 6 months to 50 years, with a combined 1,261 years of service to the ensemble.

COC members have many varied occupations, from Car Wash Manager to Senior Vice President. Here are some other represented occupations: 17 in healthcare (including a pediatrician, podiatrist, 3 clinical psychologists, 4 music therapists), 12 students, 22 work in education (as professors, advisors, and 8 as music teachers), 5 engineers, 5 attorneys, 3 architects, 2 writers, a florist, a veterinarian, and a yoga teacher. Despite their varied current occupations, all members have prior musical training,  and many have music degrees.

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On March 5, 2020, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus was awarded The Cleveland Orchestra’s Distinguished Service Award. The annual award was established in 1996 by the Orchestra’s Board of Trustees, to recognize ongoing and exceptional commitment and service to the Orchestra. The Chorus was recognized first as individuals, for their extraordinary commitment and dedication as volunteers, and second, for the collective and polished artistry they achieve each season as a group.


The Cleveland Orchestra opened Blossom Music Center in 1968 to serve as the orchestra’s summer home.  A large new volunteer chorus was assembled for the inaugural concert and included many members of The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and members of other Northeast Ohio choral groups.  The Blossom Festival Chorus has since established itself as a permanent and beloved annual part of the Blossom Festival and has sung well over 100 concerts since its 1968 debut.

The Blossom Festival Chorus is invited to perform at Severance every December for the annual Holiday Concerts with The Cleveland Orchestra. They have also performed at Chautauqua and on Cleveland's Public Square for the annual Fourth of July concerts.

Perfect for the singer that cannot make a full season commitment, the Blossom Festival Chorus is also a great introduction to the  orchestra chorus.  Rehearsal schedules in the summer are more compact, usually two or three days a week, and singers may select the concerts for which they are available. Singers are invited to participate during the summer or during the holidays, and are not required to sing in both.


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Lisa Wong

Director of Choruses

Lisa Wong was appointed director of choruses for The Cleveland Orchestra in May 2018 after serving as acting director throughout the 2017–18 season. She joined the choral staff of The Cleveland Orchestra as assistant director of choruses at the start of the 2010–11 season, helping to prepare the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and Blossom Festival Chorus for performances each year. In 2012, she took on added responsibilities as director of the
Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus.
In addition to her duties at Severance, she is the Olive Williams Kettering Professor of Music at The College of Wooster, where she directs the Wooster Chorus and teaches courses in conducting and music education. Choirs under her direction have performed at the Central Division conference of the American Choral Directors Association and several times for the state conference of the Ohio Music Education Association. An advocate for the music of marginalized composers, Dr. Wong serves as the Repertoire and Resource Chair for World Music and Cultures for the Ohio Choral Directors Association. Her previous academic posts include positions in New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana.
Active as a clinician, guest conductor, and adjudicator, she serves regularly as a music panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. Recent international accolades have included work at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, as a part of Tunaweza Kimuziki, and as a conductor for “Conducting 21C: Musical Leadership for a New Century” in Stockholm, Sweden. Dr. Wong holds a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from West Chester University, as well as Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees in choral conducting from Indiana University.


Daniel Singer
Assistant Director of Choruses

Daniel Singer joined the choral conducting staff of the Cleveland Orchestra in 2012 as assistant director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus.  He was promoted to Assistant Director of Choruses and Director of the Youth Chorus with the start of the 2018-19 season. In addition to his responsibilities in Cleveland, Mr. Singer is the Robert Page Music Director for The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, known as the “chorus of choice” for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.


Mr. Singer has taught high school and college and most recently served on the music faculty of The College of Wooster where he taught courses in music education, conducting, and music theory. From 2011-2022, Mr. Singer was the Director of Music at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where he conducted orchestra and chorus, and prior to that he taught high school choral music in Northern Illinois and participated in music engagement in the Chicago Public Schools.


Mr. Singer has performed professionally with Quire Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire (Cleveland), and The Lakeside Singers (Chicago) and he has sung as baritone soloist with ensembles throughout Northeast Ohio, including the Wooster Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Choral Arts Cleveland, and the Suburban Symphony of Cleveland. Mr. Singer holds degrees in music education and conducting from Northwestern University and Michigan State University.

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