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The Morris Choral Society to Celebrate 50th Anniversary With Holiday Concert

originally published: 11/29/2023

The Morris Choral Society to Celebrate 50th Anniversary With Holiday Concert

Michael Shane Wittenburg

(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The Morris Choral Society, under the direction of Michael Shane Wittenburg, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first concert on Sunday, December 10, 2023 at St. Peter's Church in Morristown, the site of that initial performance. Beginning at 3:00pm, the program will feature the signature work of that auspicious day, the Magnificat by Antonio Vivaldi plus well known and not so well-known works of the season.

The 60-voice chorus will be supplemented with the Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey under the baton of Maestro Robert Butts, plus soprano Christa Dalmazio, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Merz, and pianist Jennifer Yang.

In addition to accompanying the chorus, the Baroque Orchestra will perform the Corelli Christmas Concerto and Handel’s Coronation Anthem, which is also known as Zadok the Priest. The founder and music director of the Baroque Orchestra, Robert Butts, is not only an accomplished conductor, he is also a top composer, educator and lecturer. His works have been premiered in the USA and in Europe and he has received scores of awards including Artist of the Year from the New York Classical Music Society.

The American soprano, Christa Dalmazio, obtained her Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School in 2016 and is currently studying for a Masters of Music degree there. The winner of several awards, she sings at Christ Church in New York City and has performed solo roles at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and the Leiderkranz Foundation. Charlotte Merz is an Australian-American operatic mezzo-soprano who received training at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. She made her debut at the Sydney Opera House in 2015 and now appears around the world.

Accompanist Jennifer Yang is from Seoul, Korea where she began piano lessons at the age of five. A graduate of Yonsei University in Korea, she came to the USA to complete her Master’s Degree in organ performance at the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton. In addition to her recitals, concerts and teaching, she currently is with the Morristown United Methodist Church on the Green.

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The Morris Choral Society is directed by Michael Shane Wittenburg who is active with many companies in the metropolitan New York area including the New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera and the Manhattan Opera Studio. He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. Michael and Morris Choral Society were selected as a semi-finalist in the Choral Conducting (non-collegiate) Division of The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts. This competition is one of this country’s most comprehensive series of contests in the performing arts.

Hailed as a “real virtuoso” by the late Ruth Laredo, conductor, pianist, violinist, and Music Director of the Morris Choral Society Michael Shane Wittenburg made his European debut with the Romanian National Theater of Opera and Ballet “Oleg Danovski” conducting Puccini’s Turandot. He has been an assistant conductor and vocal coach at opera companies in Nashville, Orlando, and Sarasota. While at Nashville Opera, he directed 66 performances of the world premiere children’s opera, The Ugly Duckling by Andrew Duncan. Currently he is the Music Director of the Elite Academy for Strings in New Jersey, where he conducts the Elite Academy Chamber Orchestra which received Third Prize in The American Prize competition for best youth orchestra. He has been a faculty member of the Heifetz International Music Institute, was the interim Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony Youth Orchestra, and has appeared in collaborative recital with such artists as Metropolitan Opera soprano Stella Zambalis, violinist Livia Sohn, and Orpheus Ensemble oboist Gerard Reuter. In The American Prize competition he was awarded Third Prize in youth orchestra conducting, and was a Finalist in the professional opera category. He and the Chorus are semi-finalists in The American Prize Competition for Choral Conducting.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students under 18. They may be purchased online at or by calling 973-723-6424.

The celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Morris Choral Society requires more funds than the Chorus has so in order to maintain the high standards of this community chorus, a Go Fund Me campaign is underway. Founded by R. Wayne Walters in 1973, the Morris Choral Society has thrived because of the reputation of this musician, singer, composer, conductor and music educator. To honor Wayne and to help the Chorus meet its anniversary expenses, supporters can donate online here.

The Morris Choral Society has two purposes: to make available to all Morris area residents varied choral music programs and to give residents an opportunity to perform in a choral organization. New members are accepted twice a year by audition, in September and in January.

The Morris Choral Society is funded in part by the Arts Council of the Morris Area through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding has also been provided by the Arts Council of the Morris Area/Dodge Foundation Partnership and by the Masterwork Music and Art Foundation.

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