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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