In its youngest years, while under the direction of founding director Elmer Hanke, the Carthage College A Cappella Choir was well known through its performances on national radio broadcasts and was the first touring choir to perform at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Upon Prof. Hanke’s death, Prof. William P. Roth assumed direction of the choir and continued the choir’s touring a cappella tradition. In the early 1960s, Prof. Roth conducted the Choir in an Easter Sunday performance at Red Rocks Park in Denver and led the Choir on its first tour to Europe.
Dr. John Windh, director of the Carthage Choir from 1966 to 1999, continued the tradition of touring domestically and began a tradition that continues today of touring Central Europe every three years during the College’s January term. Under the direction of Dr. Windh, the Carthage Choir performed in 30 states in the Midwest, the East, the South and Canada, and toured nine times to 13 European countries.
During those years, the annual Christmas Festivals grew enormously in size and popularity. In 1998, the first Carthage Alumni Choir toured Europe, with appearances in Prague, Slavkov, Breclav, Vienna, Salzburg and at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Those European contacts led to concerts at Carthage over the years by groups from West Germany, East Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia and Russia. During Dr. Windh’s tenure, the choir sang frequently at state music conventions and with the Racine and Kenosha symphonies, and performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Milwaukee’s Performing Arts Center and Duke Ellington’s Second Concert of Sacred Music with Ellington and his orchestra.
Prof. Gregory Berg assumed direction of the Carthage Choir upon Dr. Windh’s retirement. Under Prof. Berg’s direction, the choir was invited to sing at the state convention of the Wisconsin Music Educators Association in Madison, Wis., in 2001 and in the Midwest premiere of Ken Medema’s The Weaver with the composer.
The Carthage Choir was joined by the Carthage Community Chorus and an Alumni Choir directed by former directors William Roth and John Windh as it celebrated its 75th anniversary with a gala concert on April 22, 2001. The concert featured the world premiere of Psalm 90, composed by and under the direction of Carthage alumnus Dr. Michael Burkhardt, internationally known organist-composer-choral director. The work was commissioned by the Music Department to commemorate the choir’s anniversary.
In Spring 2001, Dr. Burkhardt was appointed college organist and director of choral activities. He assumed direction of the Carthage Choir in August 2001. The choir made several tours to the southwest and northeast United States during Dr. Burkhardt’s tenure, in addition to maintaining the tradition of European tours every three years.
Weston Noble, one of the most distinguished conductors and music educators of our time, assumed the role of conductor-in-residence of the Carthage Choir in the 2007-08 academic year. Mr. Noble led the choir on its Midwest tour of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the College during the 2008 commencement ceremony. He concluded his appointment by leading the Carthage Choir and instrumental forces in a memorable performance of John Rutter’s Mass of the Children. He has maintained his connection with Carthage by returning annually to work with the choral and instrumental ensembles.
The Carthage Choir’s current director is Dr. Eduardo Garcia-Novelli, who joined the Carthage faculty in August 2008. Under his leadership, the choir toured Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, and Hungary in 2009; Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland in 2012; and Spain in 2015. The January 2018 tour includes Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy. Carthage Choir was selected to perform before the membership of Wisconsin Music Educators Association (WMEA) in October of 2009, and again in October of 2012, both in Madison, WI. The Choir was honored with an invitation from the Wisconsin Choral Directors Association (WCDA) to perform before its membership in January of 2011 (Green Bay, Wis.), in January of 2014 (Milwaukee, Wis.), and in January of 2017 (Wausau, Wis.). The January 2018 tour included Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy. Carthage Choir won first prize in the Folksong Category and also first prize in the Classical Category at the prestigious Spittal International Choir Competition in the city of Spittal, Austria, in July of 2019.
In May of 2011 the choir had the distinct honor of presenting a solo performance at Carnegie Hall, New York City.
The Carthage Choir has premiered a number of compositions, including works by graduates and members of the Carthage faculty: Gregory Berg, Michael Burkhardt ’79, Peter Dennee ’86, Mark Petering, Brian Schoettler ’11, and Thomas Vigneri ’83. The choir had the honor of premiering O nata lux by renowned Norwegian-American composer Ola Gjeilo.