The Brockport Singers

D. Donald Cervone, Conductor

I thank our older son, Gian Carlo, for developing this site and teaching me how to use it.

For many of the seventeen years I taught at SUNY College at Brockport one of the ensembles I conducted was The Brockport Singers. From time to time I will place on this site recordings from some of their concerts. Keep checking the site; I'm not very fast at doing all this.

The Singers began in a rather unusual way. Louis Hetler, the head of the Theater Department at SUNY Brockport asked if I could get some singers to perform Puritan psalms for his production of The Crucible. He said he'd add them to the cast later in his rehearsal process. I placed a notice in the college newspaper and was surprised at the number of students who were interested in doing this. I think at least some of them just really wanted to get on stage. As we neared the date of performances of the play, the director asked me if I could tape the singing instead of performing it live; I guess he decided that adding more people this late would be too much of a hassle. I apologized to my singers for their not going on stage and suggested that if any of them wanted to stay with me we would perform as a small group. I think about twelve agreed and later that spring we shared a program with Ian Hendersons's men's glee club at Morgan-Manning House. The next year we became a full-fledged ensemble, and eventually we regularly performed at least four concerts a year. The ensemble varied in size but usually was about 16-18. The largest group was 30. One year I had exactly the same number of singers in each section (five, I think); that was unusual and gave a slightly different sound from the mix of voices I had normally. Early on we sang through at least one piece new to the members of the group at each rehearsal, and throughout the ensemble's existence they always had to read a lot of unfamiliar music. Many former Singers have thanked me for making them learn to sight-read music and said it had helped them later on.

The Singers met for a fifty-minute rehearsal on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—at noon, if I remember correctly. In addition, many years I also met the women's and men's sections separately once a week to learn their parts—at least those who could work that into their schedules and, surprisingly, many could. So, everyone rehearsed three times a week, many four times, and I had five rehearsals. The Singers were not a select, auditioned ensemble, except that they selected themselves by agreeing to the extensive rehearsal schedule. I felt that as a state university it was our duty to give opportunity to as many students as possible, so I accepted whoever wanted to sing and developed a group from that. In the long run it worked out well.

The college had no good space for performing music. I decided to try the large lobby of the Fine Arts Building. My colleagues thought I was crazy because in it sound reverberated for a rather long time. The first program I was going to perform had a lot of Renaissance music which could live in such a space so I gave it a try; and it worked. Since it also was a very public and open space there always was the possibility, in fact, probability, of undesirable noises such as slamming doors, footsteps, and talking. In any case, we performed many concerts there and others in several churches in Brockport. I give the location of the performances in the notes to the recordings; you may notice some differences in the ambience of the sound in the various venues.

The recordings will be found under three categories: Christmas Music; Sacred Music; and Secular Music. Each piece will be listed with information in the following order:

title (Locus iste)
composer (Anton Bruckner)
date of performance, year, month, and day [72-12-11 = 11 December 1972].

I've chosen this order because I feel former Singers might remember the title of a piece without knowing the composer; placing the year first will make it easier for them to choose recordings from the years they were members of the ensemble. Several recordings, from different years, may be found of some pieces. At each listing you will find a place to listen to an mp3 and another from which you can download the recording.

Select a category of music, then click on the title of a work found in the recordings list below to listen to it and get more information.

I hope you will enjoy hearing these recordings even though the results are variable, especially as to recording quality. (My attempts to eliminate tape hiss and hum are not always successful.)

I usually listen to recordings with earphones, and you may find that most satisfying unless you can play your computer files through decent speakers. Good listening to all!


© Copyright, 2011, by D. Donald Cervone. All rights reserved.

Music files and written commentary may be freely downloaded, shared, and distributed so long as they are not altered in any way.

You may be interested in my other site: which contains recordings of some of my compositions. will reach me if you have any comments or questions.

Recording Info:

A Hymn to the Virgin (Benjamin Britten, 1913-1976) [73-12-10]

listen here:   
download the audio file [ mp3 - 2.7 MB ]

Britten probably is best-known for his operas, but he also composed many fine choral pieces. A Hymn to the Virgin dating from the early1930s is a setting of an anonymous macronic carol (the words are in English and Latin) from c. 1300. It is scored for for chorus and a quartet of solo voices, which, in this performance, are: Martha Hansen, soprano; Sarah Ann Harnick, alto; R. Michael Johnson, tenor; and Bruce Zunner, bass.

The ensemble consists of nineteen women and eleven men, the largest group we had.

Recorded in concert, 12 December 1973, in the Lobby of the Fine Arts Building. SUNY Brockport. The original tape is of lesser quality than some of the others.

© Copyright, 2011, by D. Donald Cervone. All rights reserved.
Music files and written commentary may be freely downloaded, shared, and distributed so long as they are not altered in any way.