Yankee Male Chorus yankeemalechorus.org Yankee Male Chorus yankeemalechorus.org
Yankee Male Chorus
FOUNDED IN 1953

Do You Love
 to Sing?
Join Us!

new members are welcome

You're Invited!
The public is cordially invited to attend our August performances in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Admission is free, but at some concerts an offering is requested.
All venues are wheel-chair accessible.
 
Management
General Manager  
Nels Burhans
Staff
Dave Caneen
Peter Harrison
Arnold Jones, Jr.
Joseph O'Leary
John Souza
William Yates
 
Contact Us
Pete Harrison (click here); phone: 802-722-3080
Nels Burhans: 845-246-2906
 
Links
about the Conductors Club
Bayside Glee Club
Hendrick Hudson Male Chorus
Mendelssohn Club of Kingston
Catskill Glee Club
Down Town Glee Club
Mendelssohn Club of Albany
Mendelssohn Glee Club of New York City
Conductors Club concert calendar
more links
 
 
About Us
The Yankee Male Chorus -- approximately 90 singers (mostly from glee clubs in northeastern and mid-Atlantic states) -- convenes in New England each August for four days. In 2013, the chorus celebrated its 60th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Vermont Goveror Peter Shumlin issued a proclamation declaring August 7-10, 2013, Yankee Male Chorus Week. Click here to read the proclamation.

The chorus rehearses 16 or 17 songs on a Wednesday afternoon and presents a concert that night and on the three following evenings in different, scenic locales. The group performs before packed houses. Days are spent at leisure in the beautiful Vermont and New Hampshire countryside. In the evenings there are communal suppers, joyous singing, and festive afterglows, all of which make for a most enjoyable and inexpensive mini-vacation. Singers are often accompanied by family or friends. Many men return year after year and some sing with their sons. Traditionally, conductors are drawn from members of the Conductors Club. 
 
August 2014 Performance Schedule

all concerts are at 7:30 pm

Date: August 6 (Wednesday), First Congregational Church of West Brattleboro
Location: Western Avenue, West Brattleboro, Vermont

Date: August 7 (Thursday), Charlestown Congregational Church
Location: 71 Main Street, Charlestown, New Hampshire

Date: August 8 (Friday), First Congregational Church
Location:
Washington Square, Walpole, New Hampshire

Date: August 9 (Saturday), The White Church
Location: Main Street, Grafton, Vermont 

 
Application

If you would like additional information about the Yankee Male Chorus or an application to sing, please contact Pete Harrison (click here) or phone him at 802-722-3080; or call Nels Burhans at 845-246-2906. Places are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

 
History

We are often asked “Isn’t it a little difficult to go out and do these concerts just by getting together for only four days each summer?” Our answer is always the same. “All the men volunteer their time because they love to sing four-part male choral harmony.” While it is difficult for all of the men to schedule the time and exert the effort, it is worth it because they bring joy to themselves and to their audiences. 

In the words of one of our past conductors, Larry Coulter, “It is always a mystery to me that these men, most of whom have not seen each other in a year, can come together, and in a couple of hours produce the results that you will hear tonight. Let us just say that we love to be here and we hope that our audience will love to hear us.”

It all started in 1953, when Rolland E. Heermance, our founding conductor, and a group of men thought that it would be interesting and fun to sing together at a town celebration in Massachusetts. They were asked to return the following year.  Rolland, a true gentleman, had attended Ithaca College, studying voice, and later settled in Catskill, New York, where he founded the Catskill Glee Club. The group returned to Massachusetts the next year, and the Yankee Male Chorus was off and running. 

All sorts of logistics problems became an annual part of the event including:  meals, lodging, concert locales, soloists, staging, air conditioning or lack of it, having enough copies of music, to name a few. Grafton, Vermont, population 432, was having its 200th anniversary celebration in 1953. During the evening of that celebration, YMC began what was to become a series of annual concerts that has seen 50 straight appearances through 2003 in that beautiful town.

The members of the first Yankee Male Chorus came mainly from the Catskill Glee Club, the Middletown Glee Club, and the Manufacturers Chorus. Singers came from all over New England, New York, and the Middle Atlantic states. It was a diverse group of men -- country folk, city folk, farmers, doctors, painters, businessmen, factory hands, truck and bus drivers, musicians, and retirees.  What they had in common was the love for making music.

In 1960, the short life of the Yankee Male Chorus almost came to an end when, tragically, Rolland Heermance was driving people home from a church rehearsal and a car veered into his. He was killed instantly. Since plans had already been started for that year’s tour, Al Sparks stepped in to manage the tour and Clifford Ormsby, Ph.D., became the conductor.

Clifford, a native Vermonter, was a composer, arranger, and conductor and was a director of music in Great Neck, Long Island.  He attended Ithaca College, Hofstra College, New York University, and Columbia University. Having a summer home in Grafton, he had sung with and been a guest conductor with the YMC and was already familiar with many of the men and fit in perfectly.

In 1976, the Chorus was invited to sing at Tanglewood, Massachusetts, to celebrate the Bicentennial and had a most successful performance. Cliff’s untimely death early in 1977 was cause for great concern for the Chorus, but Lawrence Coulter came to the rescue. Larry’s background in music was extensive, including Carnegie University, Columbia University, and the Eastman School of Music. Larry was an aviator in World War II, flying 53 combat missions; was a Japanese POW for three years and was awarded seven decorations.  He held the rank of Lt. Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He conducted the Chorus through 1993, when he retired.

Since Larry Coulter’s retirement, three gifted men have shared the conductor’s podium -- Bruce J. Wagner, J. Brian Steeves, and Nelson G. Burhans. Nels has been active for decades as a soloist, manager, and conductor. He is a man of great commitment and the driving force of the YMC in the last decade.

After the passing of Brian Steeves in 2008, former conductor of the Hendrick Hudson Male Chorus David Lance was asked to conduct at YMC concerts. In 2012, with the retirement of Nelson Burhans as a regular conductor, Michael Wright of the Albany Mendelssohn Club joined YMC as a conductor.

Over the years many other talented people have lent their expertise to the Chorus, including accompanists Donald Brown, Barbara Sparks, and Patricia Osborn; soloists Walt McClure and John McCullough; conductor Gene Wisoff; composer Stephanie Gelfan, a Grafton native; poet laureate of Vermont William Mundell; librarians C. Fred Seeger, William Yates, and William Murray; managers Nelson Burhans and Arnold Jones, Jr; and staff assistants Pete Harrison and John Souza. 

A typical YMC tour includes a three-hour rehearsal on a Wednesday afternoon, followed by four concerts on Wednesday through Saturday nights. Our home base has always been the White Church in Grafton, VT. The concert at this charming old church is the highpoint for most of the men. The acoustics there are hard to beat, and our unbroken record of never missing a performance there is one of our proudest traditions. However, all of the towns that we have sung in are important to us and to the people who hear us. Summer visitors have been known to arrange their vacations so that they can be sure to see and hear the Chorus.

We look forward to many more years of singing in the mountains and valleys of Vermont and New Hampshire, and we look forward to seeing you soon. Without our audiences, we could not exist. Without the love of singing and the camaraderie that builds year after year, the Yankee Male chorus would not exist.
--Compiled by Gloria and Sal Antignani, Grace McCullough, Nelson G. Burhans, and Arnold Jones, Jr.

 
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