Greenville’s Choral Music History

Greenville’s Choral Music History






The Greenville Chorale, founded in 1961 and supported by the Greenville Rotary Club as a community service project, has just celebrated its 60th Anniversary Season. Under the leadership of Bingham Vick, Jr., artistic director and conductor since 1981, the Chorale has a well-deserved reputation as one of the Southeast’s finest community choral organizations. Before the Greenville Chorale, there was the “Bach Choir of Greenville.”

Bach Choir of Greenville

In 1937, Dr. Merrills Lewis, professor of organ and theory at Furman University, organized the Bach Choir with “interested members of the Furman University Music Faculty” according to early records. The purpose of the choir was “the bringing together singers, in Greenville and surrounding territory, who wished to learn and perform the great choral music of the masters.” The singers for this choral ensemble were drawn from Greenville’s church choirs, local colleges and Donaldson Air Force Base. “The only requirement for membership is the love for singing.” The annual performance schedule featured Christmas and Spring concerts. The early members included twelve sopranos, twelve altos, six tenors and six basses.

The Bach Choir was disbanded in 1948 when Dr. Lewis moved away from Greenville. In 1951 the ensemble was reorganized under the direction of Frank Marynell, III. In 1953, the Choir was led by William H. Thomas, head of the music department at Holmes Bible College and principal violinist and assistant conductor of the Greenville Symphony. By 1956, the membership of the ensemble had grown to fifty singers.

The Bach Choir performed concerts at area churches and special events. Buncombe Street Methodist Church provided rehearsal space. Their concert programs included a variety of great choral classics by Brahms, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Bruckner, Randall Thompson, Vaughan Williams, and others, as well as madrigal selections. Their concert repertoire included the Bach Christmas Oratorio (1954), the Fauré Requiem (1952), Heinrich Schütz Seven Last Words of Christ, excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, and other examples of great choral classics.

In 1946, they performed Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah with the choir of First Baptist Church, Spartanburg; in 1948 the Bach Choir and the Greenville High School Chorus performed Haydn’s The Creation; in 1956, the Bach Choir and Greenville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pedro San Juan, director of the GSO, performed the Mozart Requiem as a part of the Mozart Festival sponsored by Furman University.

The expenses for the Bach Choir were covered by small dues from the members and donations from the public.

The 20th Anniversary Concert was at Greenville High School on February 17, 1958. The Bach Choir was joined by members of the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, Peter Rickett, conductor. The program included Schubert’s Mass in G Major. There is little information available after 1958.

~ Note: from scrapbook records B.Vick May 3, 2022

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The Greenville Chorale is funded in part by:

Metropolitan Arts Council
SC Arts Commission