Since 1951, the Knoxville Choral Society has brought the joy and wonder of choral music to the people of East Tennessee. Dedicated to maintaining a rich tradition of choral excellence for its members and audiences, this organization has through the years brought some of the world’s greatest choral music to thousands of listeners.
Organized in 1951 as the Knoxville Choral Club, the group of 35-40 volunteer singers performed under its founder and first conductor, Edward H. Hamilton. The society established a Choral Conductor’s Scholarship Endowment Fund at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in his honor. This fund now awards through audition a $2,000 per year scholarship for graduate study in choral conducting, in music or music education. Succeeding Hamilton as conductor have been Woodrow Hall, Ambrose Holford, Ed Francis, J.B. Lyle, Kirk Trevor and KCS’s current conductor, Eric Thorson. J.B. Lyle, the former Supervisor of Music of Knox County Schools, served as conductor from 1970 until his death in 1987. The J.B. Lyle Music Education Endowment was established at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in his memory. Maestro Kirk Trevor, former director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, directed the KCS from 1988 until 1995.
In 1995, Dr. Eric Thorson, Professor of Music at Carson Newman College, became Conductor and Artistic Director of the Choral Society. Dr. Thorson has enhanced the professional level of performance of the society through excellent repertoire and concerts performed in East Tennessee and Europe. Danny M. Brian, staff accompanist at the University of Tennessee, is KCS’s pianist. Professional orchestras of the finest available players from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra are secured to perform for KCS concerts. KCS is governed by a board of directors elected by the members of the society. In 2013, Dr. John Orr was hired as Assistant Conductor of the KCS and Director of the Knoxville Chamber Chorale. Also in 2013, Andrew Duncan was hired as Assistant Accompanist.
The active members of the Knoxville Choral Society represents a wide variety of occupations, including many professional musicians serving in area schools, colleges, and churches. Since 1976, entrance into the group has been solely through audition. Soloists are selected from the performing chorus, with occasional guest soloists appearing as well. A small group from the society, the Knoxville Chamber Chorale, is selected by audition to perform at KCS concerts and by invitation in the Knoxville area.
All singers contribute with annual membership dues. Additional sources of income for this nonprofit organization include grants, ticket sales, special projects and support from local businesses, the professional community, and benevolent individuals. We rely on the financial support of many individuals and business firms to maintain the Knoxville Choral Society.
KCS’s regular concert season normally includes a major choral and orchestral work and additional concerts of varied styles of choral literature for a variety of events. KCS often performs with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as well as for convention programs and for special community events.
Four commissioned works have been premiered by the KCS:
- An American Essay by Nancy Van de Vate
- Episodes – Jesus Christ by David Van Vactor, Composer Laureate of Tennessee
- The Fields of Heaven by Daniel Gawthrop, in honor of the KCS’ 50th Anniversary
- Chronicles of Blue & Gray by John Purifoy, in honor of our director, Dr. Eric Thorson
For a fuller listing of works performed by the Knoxville Choral Society, please see our repertoire.
The Knoxville Choral Society, an auditioned symphonic chorus, offers excellence through professional choral performances, the commissioning of new works, the promotion of music education, and cultural outreach.
Knoxville Choral Society (KCS) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Programs presented by and membership in KCS are available to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or veteran status.