THE WORCESTER CHORUS

From Classic to Contemporary since 1858

The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester has the unique distinction of being one of the most outstanding on-going choral groups in the United States. Founded in 1858 to sing at the first annual Worcester Music Festival in the newly-built Mechanics Hall, the 100-member group includes both amateur and professional singers from Worcester County, northern Connecticut and the Boston area. Its repertoire includes not only choral masterpieces, but also contemporary literature, arrangements of American folk songs, classics from musical theater and commissioned works. Each year the Chorus performs with orchestras and soloists in Mechanics Hall as part of Music Worcester’s main season, including an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. Beginning in the 2024-2025 Music Worcester season and continuing through March 21, 2035, the Worcester Chorus will be key participants in THE COMPLETE BACH project. The Worcester Chorus has also made guest appearances throughout the Northeast and overseas.

The Worcester Chorus has appeared with the Hartford Symphony, the American Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall in the Lincoln Center, and the Prague Symphony at Carnegie Hall. The Chorus performed at the 1992 American Choral Directors Association Eastern Division Convention in Boston, and has appeared at the Worcester Music Festival with the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Rochester Philharmonic, and the symphonies of Boston, Baltimore, and Detroit. 

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Chris Shepard, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Now in his sixteenth year as Artistic Director of the Worcester Chorus, Chris also serves as conductor of the Connecticut Choral Artists (CONCORA), Connecticut’s oldest professional choir. In May 2024, Chris launched THE COMPLETE BACH, a 132-concert project to present live performances of all of J.S. Bach’s works for the first time ever in America. This monumental undertaking, under the auspices of Music Worcester, was inspired by Chris’s BACH2010 project, in which his Sydneian Bach Choir and Orchestra performed all of Bach’s choral cantatas in Sydney, Australia. THE COMPLETE BACH brings together local ensembles as well as internationally recognized performers such as pianists Jeremy Denk and Simone Dinnerstein, and Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society and Emmanuel Music.

His musical interests hardly stop in the eighteenth century, however. Chris has conducted much of the most prominent largescale choral-orchestral repertoire, including major works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Fauré, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Poulenc, and Britten; a career highlight was the 2022 performance by the Worcester and Masterwork Choruses of Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. He has also performed many works by contemporary composers and has premiered works by such composers as Ricky Ian Gordon, Gwyneth Walker, Martin Sedek, Robert Convery, Anna K Jacobs, and Amy Bernon. His choirs have collaborated with a number of orchestras, such as the Juilliard Orchestra, the Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico, and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, in venues that include Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall in New York, as well as the Royal Festival Hall in London and the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Chris has prepared choirs for major international conductors, including Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Simone Young, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and William Boughton, as well as for Broadway legend Patti Lupone and Ray Davies of the Kinks. For a decade, Chris was conductor of the Masterwork Chorus in New Jersey, with whom he performed Handel’s Messiah annually at Carnegie Hall; he also led the Dessoff Choir in New York City from 2010 to 2016. Chris made his conducting debut with the New Haven Symphony in 2015.

A committed music educator, Chris has served on the faculty of the Taft School, Sydney Grammar School, Hotchkiss Summer Portals, and Holy Cross College. He founded the Litchfield County Children’s Choir in 1990, and has conducted numerous middle and high school regional and All-State choirs in New England, New York and Australia. He presented two documentaries with SBS-TV, an Australian national public television network, and has given several presentations at conferences for American Choral Directors Association and Australian National Kodàly Association. Chris has been a guest conductor at Emmanuel Church in Boston, a church renowned for its five-decade Bach cantata project, and he currently serves as Music Director of St John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut.

A pianist and keyboard continuist, Chris holds degrees from the Hartt School, the Yale School of Music (where he studied choral conducting with Marguerite Brooks) and the University of Sydney. He researched the performance history of Bach’s B Minor Mass in New York City for his PhD in Musicology; his dissertation won the American Choral Directors Association’s 2012 Julius Herford Prize for outstanding doctoral thesis in choral music.

Mark Mummert, Assistant Director & Accompanist

Mark Mummert (b. 1965) is the Assistant Director & Accompanist for The Worcester Chorus of Music Worcester, Inc., (Dr. Chris Shepard, Artistic Director) and the director of The Worcester Chorus Women’s Ensemble.

Mark is also Cantor at Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA), Worcester, MA where he leads the music in all worship services, conducts the Trinity Choir, Trinity Choristers, Trinity Junior Choristers, and is artistic director of the Music at Trinity fine arts series.

Prior to moving to Worcester, Mark was the 2015 Distinguished Visiting Cantor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Mark served as the Director of Worship at Houston’s Christ the King Lutheran Church (2008-2015) and as Seminary Musician at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (1990-2008).

Mark is also a tenor chorister with CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists), a professional choral ensemble based in Hartford, CT.

Mark is a composer of portions of the first musical setting of Holy Communion in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the commended worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He is the editor of Psalm Settings for the Church Year (2008, Augsburg Fortress) and Music Sourcebook for Lent and Three Days (2010, Augsburg Fortress). His numerous compositions for Christian worship are available from Augsburg Fortress.

Mark’s recording Reformation Chorales Reformed (2017) includes organ works by J. S. Bach, Mendelssohn, Distler, and Clarke. The album is available for download and for streaming on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and Youtube. Numerous recordings are available at Mark’s Soundcloud site.

Mark was principal musician for the 2005 National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and Worship Jubilee, and visiting scholar for Emory University’s Candler School of Theology’s “The Singing Church” Project in 2012.

As a singer, Mark has performed professionally with The Worcester Chorus, Choral Arts Philadelphia, the Bach Society Houston, and the Houston Chamber Choir. Mark’s voice can be heard on the Grammy nominated recordings, soft blink of amber light and Rothko Chapel.

Mark studied organ with Earl Ness and John Binsfeld and voice with Robert Grooters at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music. He is currently pursuing vocal studies with Jane Shivick. Mark maintains an active private studio of voice, piano, and organ students.

The Dr. Gerald R. Mack Music Award

The Dr. Gerald R. Mack Music Award was established and funded by the Worcester Chorus in 2010. The $1,000 award is restricted to a qualified graduating senior from a Worcester area high school who plans to attend college in the fall with a major in music. The award will be granted in the fall, after the recipient has enrolled in college.

Dr. Mack was the esteemed conductor of the Worcester Chorus for 28 years and Director of Choral Activities at the Hartt School of Music, University of Hartford. He gained a national reputation for his expertise in the field of choral music and served as a guest conductor, lecturer and clinician. He conducted choruses at Carnegie Hall and Tully Hall as well as at many of the renowned concert halls of Europe. His festival appearances include the New York Mostly Mozart Festival, the Salzburg and the Dubrovnik International Music Festivals, and he concertized throughout Western Europe and Russia. He was founder and choral director of the Great Waters Music Festival in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, which he led for 15 years until he retired in 2009.

Honoring Dr. Mack with this award not only recognizes his contribution to choral music performance, but it is also a visible and concrete manifestation of his long commitment to education in the arts for future generations.

Click below to access the 2024 Mack Scholarship Application form:

AUDITION FOR THE CHORUS

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Conductor in Sweatpants

In this episodic podcast, Chris Shepard, conductor of The Worcester Chorus (MA) and Masterwork Chorus (NJ) discusses aspects of and moments from his favorite choral works and yours.