Shenandoah Valley Choral Society named 2020 Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award winner

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The Shenandoah Valley Choral Society is this year’s recipient of the Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award.

The award is co-sponsored by the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University, the Arts Council of the Valley, and College of Visual and Performing Arts at JMU.

“The Shenandoah Valley Choral Society is a major contributor to the artistic spirit of the Shenandoah Valley, and it is an honor to present them with this year’s Circle of Excellence in the Arts Award,” says Regan Byrne, executive director of the Forbes Center.

Celebrating its 50th season, the SVCS was founded in 1970 after Harrisonburg attorney David Hatmaker issued a “call for singers” to perform the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Orkney Springs orchestra in the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival. The call attracted an overwhelming 200 singers, who went on to form the SVCS. Today, the non-audition choral group consists of 125 active members who perform—with instrumentalists and young artists—repertoire that includes cantata, oratorio and a cappella works as well patriotic music, show tune favorites and standard classics in an annual spring, holiday, and “Celebrate America!” concert.

The SVCS aims to inspire people of all ages to embrace concertgoing as an important part of their lives, to encourage multigenerational and cross-cultural participation, and to provide high-quality choral performances for its members and audiences. The group has grown musically under the leadership of Dr. Gordon Ohlsson (1970–1977), Dr. Kenneth Nafziger (1977–1987), Gretchen Welch (1987–1997, 1999–2000) and Scott Williamson (1997–1999). Curtis Nolley, a gifted conductor, church musician, singer and music educator, has served as director since 2000.

Comprised of the Dorothy Thomasson Estes Center for Theatre and Dance and the Shirley Hanson Roberts Center for Music Performance, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University is committed to fostering interdisciplinary programs campus-wide that impact the creative process positively by encouraging dialogue about the intersection between society and the arts, and by valuing multicultural and community engagement and arts education in the broader Shenandoah Valley.

The Arts Council of the Valley (ACV) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to cultivating the arts and connecting communities in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Since its establishment in 2000, ACV has grown into a multifaceted community organization that manages the Smith House Galleries, supports childhood learning by way of the Any Given Child Shenandoah Valley initiative, funds local art projects through its Advancing the Arts grant program, and coordinates monthly First Fridays Downtown community gatherings.


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