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A Brief History of Voices In Harmony

  • Our choir began as a part of the first Crystal Lake Fourth of July Gala in 1987. The Gala was an idea to connect two community events – the Cardboard Cup Regatta and the Lakeside Festival – with a week of celebration and events that involved all families and people of all ages, expanding the “Taste of Crystal Lake” and culminating in a parade, festival concert and fireworks display all focused on our beautiful lake. Joyce Dwyer approached Steven Szalaj about forming a community choir from area church choirs for a concert on Tuesday of Gala week, and to sing on the Fireworks concert with the Crystal Lake Community Band. Helen Bird was a significant help in forming the festival choir. It was a “magical” beginning! The choir has given this free, out-of-doors concert at Main Beach on the last Tuesday of June every year since 1987.

    Steve Sszalaj

    Steven Szalaj

  •  Enthusiasm from that event propelled the creation of the community choir, then called the Crystal Lake Community Choir (CLCC). The first concert was a shared holiday concert in December 1987 with the Crystal Lake Community Band given in the CL South High School auditorium.
  • The first CLCC-only concert was given April 30, 1988. It included Handel’s Utruecht Jubilate (1713), Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus KV 339 and Vespere Solennes de Confessore KV 339. A 20-piece orchestra accompanied the choir. Peter Carroll and Kurt Kuehnert were among the featured soloists. The concert was presented at St. Thomas Catholic Church (Oak St.).
  • The first presentation of Handel’s Messiah was a collaboration with the McHenry County Youth Orchestra on December 10, 1989. Among the featured soloists was Fred McCullough. We continued to perform Messiah in alternate years, giving a more general holiday concert in the “non-Messiah” years.
  • The first Sing Along Messiah was a joint venture of CLCC and McHenry County College. The program was given on December 13, 1997 in the MCC Conference Center. The featured soloists included Susan Kedzior, Caren Schneider, Kurt Kuehnert and Peter Carroll. The choir continues this concert as an important part of the area’s holiday traditions.
  • September 29, 2001 gave us the opening of the Raue Center for the Arts. CLCC was the “anchor” choir in the two-day McHenry County Festival of the Voice. Due to the history of that month, this became the premier concert for the Raue Center. The event featured choirs from all over the county and Michael Zegarski, a Broadway singer/actor and Crystal Lake native.
  • Prior to the opening of the Raue Center, CLCC was “nomadic” – always searching for a concert venue. The choir has performed their season concerts at Bethany Lutheran Church, St. Thomas Church, First Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church, St. John the Baptist (Johnsburg), Holy Cross Lutheran Church (Libertyville), Crystal Lake South High School, Prairie Ridge High School, McHenry County College, Elgin Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center and Cutting Hall (Palatine).
  • The Choir is very happy to have a performance home at the Raue Center. This concert marks the 38th time the choir has given a full concert at the Raue!
  • With the broad and growing base of our membership and support, a name change became necessary. Also, a simpler name and new logo would help with marketing and identity. So at the choir’s 20th anniversary, the choir adopted the name Voices In Harmony and our beautiful logo.
  • In honor of the choir’s 25th anniversary, we again visited the Festival of the Voice. On November 6, 2011, VIH hosted two concerts with a total of 16 choirs from all around our area, including over 500 choral singers. The choir offered these concerts free of charge to the participants and audience, and we raised over $1500 in donations for the Crystal Lake Food Pantry. This amazing event was a small sampling of all the many, many choirs and their singers that call this area home.
  • VIH is governed by a 9-member board of directors that meet monthly to tend to the business of running the choir. Board meetings are always open to the public, and VIH has been blessed with a strong, dedicated people on the board, and that is one of the main reasons the choir has reached its 25th year. They have been able to make hard decisions in good times and difficult times.
  • VIH is a 501(c)3 registered not-for-profit organization with the State of Illinois, and has been from its beginning as CLCC.
  • From the choir’s beginning, VIH has been an affiliate organization of the Crystal Lake Park District, with whom the coir has enjoyed a very positive relationship. CLPD gives the choir in-kind administrative support for which we are very grateful.

    Choir accompanist

    Randy Casey

  • Bethany Lutheran Church has been the choir rehearsal home from the beginning. We count them as dear friends, and with out their significant support, VIH would have had a much more difficult time reaching our 25th year. Bethany allows us to rehearse in the sanctuary each week, and asks nothing of the choir. That is a blessing beyond imagination in this day. Thank you, Bethany!!
  • VIH is happy to have revived the position of Assistant Director.  Previous assistant directors include James Lowery, Paulette Boddy, Elizabeth Weismehl, and Lauren Stoeck. The choir hopes to revive the position of choir manager in the near future.
  • Another important part of VIH is the choir accompanist, a person who is vital to the smooth running of the rehearsals. We are thrilled that Randy Casey has been a part of the choir for over 10 years. The choir’s first accompanist was Hazel Dunn, who served for 15 years. There are many fine pianists in our area who have played for the choir at times when our regular accompanists have not been available. Among these are Diane Koenig, Margurite Faulds and Ingrid Hanson-Popp.
  • There are hundreds of individuals and businesses over these 25 years that have supported the choir. It is truly a community effort of which we are proud! Here’s to 25 more years of beautiful choral music!