Catholic Choral Society History
The Catholic Choral Society originally existed as the Catholic Choral Club in the 1920's. The group was directed by Mr. Frank J. Daniel, Organist and Choir Master of St. Peter's Cathedral. Most of the Choral Club members were also Cathedral Choir members. This group became inactive in 1926.
Norbert K. Betti reorganized the group in May of 1949 and became its first Music Director. Through the efforts of Fr. Edmund Byrne, Assistant at St. Peter's Cathedral, Bishop William J. Hafey allowed the use of the name "Catholic Choral Club." Bishop Hafey's successor, Bishop Jerome Hannon, later suggested that the name be expanded to "The Catholic Choral Club of the Diocese of Scranton" to reflect the diocesan scope of the group. This reorganized group remains in existence longer than any choral organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Pat Calvey was elected the first President. The first concert was presented in October 1949 at the Knights of Columbus Auditorium and was sponsored by St. Patrick's Parish, West Scranton.
Mr. Betti remained as Music Director until January 1981. He was succeeded by the late Edward Kabacinski, Kathy Kanavy, John Vaida, Linda Phillips Orseck, and Ann Manganiello.
Some of the area's finest pianists have served as accompanists for the group beginning with Rosette Farfour (now Sr. Maryla Farfour, IHM), Ann Rose O'Hara, Marilyn Coar (who served for 18 years), John Forconi, Judi Caldwell, Kathleen Kanavy, Helen Moran, Anthony Kubasek, Tsukasa M. Waltich, Ronald Stabinski, Patricia Schott Koch, and Jean Shields.
The mission of the Choral Society, as stated in the original by-laws of 1949, and revised by-laws of January 1991, is as follows:
- To rehearse and perform music of liturgical and non-liturgical nature
- To encourage and develop talented, young, regional singers
- To engage in general choral activities
- To contribute to the cultural enrichment of the community
Since the original concert of the reorganized group in 1949, the Choral Society has done extensive concertizing which has taken it to all parts of the Diocese of Scranton and neighboring New York and New Jersey.
Highlights include a presentation of "The Vagabond King" in 1953, Annual Operatic Support for the Lackawanna Arts Council from 1962 through 1967, "Die Fledermaus" in 1967 with the Arts Council. During these years several Choral Club members excelled in leading operatic roles. Rita Rosato did the leading role of Donna Anna in "Don Giovanni" in 1948. Then, after marrying Director Norbert Betti, Rita Rosato Betti did the leading role of Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana" in 1962.
Rita Calvey performed the title role of "Carmen" in the full-scale production in 1963 and in1976 played the role of Mother Abbess in the Abington Players' presentation of "The Sound of Music."
Bernard McGurl performed the tenor lead roles in the productions of "Don Giovanni," "Carmen" and "Madame Butterfly."
Mary Cawley (Brown) appeared on national television on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour in 1963.
In 1974 the Choral Club was invited to sing a Sunday service at the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
In 1979 the Club sang at a mass during the 100th Anniversary Year of St Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Also in 1979, the Choral Club sang masses for the Passionist Fathers TV "Mass of the Air." This included a Christmas mass celebrated by Cardinal Terrence Cooke. Several visits to St. Patrick's have occurred since then.
Shortly thereafter, the Club received an invitation to sing at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.
In 1999, through the efforts of then Music Director, John M. Vaida, the Society was invited to travel to perform at the 100th Annual Immergrun Choral Festival in Rockenburg, Germany.
In 1993, John Vaida, suggested a change in name for the group from the Catholic Choral Club to Catholic Choral Society. The Board of Directors discussed the idea but, due to the importance of the decision, it was brought to the general membership. When presented at a well-attended rehearsal at the University of Scranton, the decision was overwhelming (31 to 3) in favor of changing the name to "Society."
In a significant event in 2008, the St. David's Society of Scranton invited the Catholic Choral Society to appear in Concert with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus of Ontario, Canada.
Former members of the group have moved onward with their musical careers. Dominic Cossa had an outstanding career as a baritone soloist with the New York Metropolitan Opera, while another former member, Judy McLane, earned a leading role in the long running Broadway hit, "Mamma Mia."
Norbert Betti structured a style of concert, which is still performed. It consists of general choral, sacred choral music, and music of the theatre, both Broadway and Opera.
A typical concert season for the Choral Society consists of:
November - Generations Concert
December - Christmas Caroling at Area Nursing Homes
March / April - Lenten Programs
May - Spring Concerts in Scranton and Kingston
(Scranton Spring Concerts consecutive since 1949)
Since its inception in 1949, the Catholic Choral Society is non-denominational, open to singers of all races and creeds.
Listings of Presidents
1949 - 1950 Patrick Calvey 1975 - 1977 Joan M. Cianci
1950 - 1951 Joseph Perinsky 1977 - 1978 Angela R. Flannery
1951 - 1952 Leonard Sileo 1978 - 1979 Eleanor Moreiko
1952 - 1953 Donato Soranno 1979 - 1980 Gerald Holmes
1953 - 1954 Helen McDonough 1980 - 1982 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1954 - 1955 Gene Snyder 1982 - 1983 Gerald Holmes
1955 - 1956 Vincent Ferra 1983 - 1985 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1956 - 1967 David Cianfichi 1985 - 1986 Geri M. Seitzinger
1957 - 1958 Patrick Trozzolillo 1986 - 1987 Michael Harabin
1958 - 1959 Donato Soranno 1987 - 1989 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1959 - 1960 Vincent Ferra 1989 - 1990 Gerald Holmes
1960 - 1961 Patrick Calvey 1990 - 1991 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1961 - 1962 Joseph Caputo 1991 - 1994 Gerald J. Gromelski
1962 - 1963 James Mullen 1994 - 1995 Gerald J. Gromelski &
1963 - 1966 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1966 - 1967 Charles Graham 1995 - 1996 Gerald J. Gromelski
1967 - 1968 David Cianfichi 1996 - 1997 Terri Bryden
1968 - 1969 Donald Noll 1997 - 1998 Dr. Charles Deck
1969 - 1970 Albert Callejas 1998 - 1999 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse
1970 - 1971 Angela R. Flannery 1999 - 2002 Brenda L. Grunza, BSN, RN
1971 - 1972 James Williams 2002 - 2004 Nancy Flannery
1972 - 1974 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse 2004 - 2010 Dr. Thomas Rittenhouse &
1974 - 1975 Gerald Holmes Brenda L. Grunza, BSN, RN
Submitted by Dr. Tom Rittenhouse, March 2010
With kind assistance from
Rita Calvey, Rita Betti and Donna Delaney