Oratorio Society of New Jersey Elects New Board, Prepares For Fall Season

The Oratorio Society of New Jersey (OSNJ) recently elected a new Board of Trustees. The Board consists of four officers and eight trustees who are responsible for managing all business aspects of the community choir based in Montclair.

Peter Braley of Montclair was elected president, replacing Susan Ladov, also of Montclair, who had served as president for the previous five years. Braley was previously the trustee for fund-raising on the board. Ladov will continue serving on the board as a trustee-at large.

In addition to Braley and Ladov, the following individuals were elected to the board: Grace Baumgarten (Bloomfield), Bette Chamberlin (Montclair), Norma Messing (Short Hills), Scott Miller (Little Falls), Helen Paxton (Montclair), Cia Siebert (Montclair), Jean Siegel (Montclair), Robert Simmons (West Orange), Stuart Turnbull (West Orange), and John Willard (West Orange).

OSNJ faced a number of challenges since the pandemic began in March of 2020. Without the opportunity to rehearse in person or to perform publicly, the Board developed numerous efforts to maintain the vitality of the OSNJ chorus and its connection to the community. This included ongoing virtual rehearsals and coaching sessions, a streaming event that featured highlights from previous OSNJ concerts, and a virtual holiday Messiah sing to take the place of the in-person Messiah sings that the OSNJ has long held at St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair.

Asked about her experience leading the board during the pandemic, Ladov said, “I was so fortunate to have the support, insights and talents of a wonderful group of board members as we dealt with the challenges of the pandemic.  We all really missed seeing each other in-person each week and having the chance to sing together, but the board met frequently via zoom and never stopped looking for ways to keep us all connected with each other and our audience. Virtual rehearsals were an ongoing challenge due to the limits of our technology, but we learned from the experience, and I think we may be closer as a group for having gone through this.”

Braley is eager to see the choir return to rehearsing and performing in person, while observing all appropriate protocols. He noted that “the experience of having to manage the choir through such a difficult time helped the board to become more flexible and experimental in its approach. I’m looking forward to building on that experience so that OSNJ can grow as a key element of Essex County’s cultural fabric.”

Sándor Szabó, who has been the director of OSNJ since 2005, was impressed with the choir’s adaptability and commitment to continue to sing in the face of obstacles. He said, “One real hidden benefit of the pandemic was that we started doing coaching sessions, where I taught the choir more about the music that we plan to sing. I think that deeper understanding of what’s behind the music we sing will lead to even better performances.”

OSNJ is planning a concert for later in the fall. The diverse program will feature compositions by Palestrina, Vivaldi, Purcell, and Britten. OSNJ has also entered into a partnership with Grace Episcopal Church in Newark, and will be collaborating with the church choir to present a concert in the church sanctuary in the fall as well.

The choir is looking for new singers in all vocal parts. No auditions are required, but previous experience singing choral music is preferred. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 14, at First Lutheran Church, 153 Park Street, Montclair, at 8:00pm. Additional information on the event can be found at www.oratoriosocietynj.org or www.facebook.com/oratoriosocietyofnj/.

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