OSNJ elects new board, prepares for fall season

MONTCLAIR, NJ — The Oratorio Society of New Jersey recently elected new board of trustees members. 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 fundraising 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: Bloomfield’s Grace Baumgarten; Montclair’s Bette Chamberlin, Helen Paxton, Cia Siebert and Jean Siegel; Short Hills’ Norma Messing; Little Falls’ Scott Miller; and West Orange’s Robert Simmons, Stuart Turnbull and John Willard.

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” singing events that the OSNJ has long held at St. James Episcopal Church in Montclair.

“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,” Ladov said about her experience leading the board during 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 said he is eager to see the choir return to rehearsing and performing in person, while observing all appropriate protocols. 

“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,” Braley said. “I’m looking forward to building on that experience so that OSNJ can grow as a key element of Essex County’s cultural fabric.”

Sandor Szabo, who has been the director of OSNJ since 2005, was impressed with the choir’s adaptability and commitment to continue singing in the face of obstacles. 

“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,” Szabo said. “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 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, Sept. 14, at 8 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, 153 Park St. in Montclair. For more information, visit www.oratoriosocietynj.org or www.facebook.com/oratoriosocietyofnj/.