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Club History

Introduction

The historical summary below was prepared by E. Andrew Mills. A comprehensive list of the Club's major concerts has been prepared by Club historian, J. Richard W. Hartnett.

The Early Years

Dr. Frank Sill Rogers

The Mendelssohn Club was founded in 1909 by Dean T.J. Bradley of the Albany College of Pharmacy and Dr. Frank Sill Rogers, organist and choirmaster for St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Rogers, the founding conductor, was a distinguished gentleman with a large mustache and pince-nez glasses. With the men from his choir as a nucleus, he used his connections with other choirmasters to recruit male singers. Soon, there was hardly a male choir singer in the city who wasn't a member!

Mark Andrews

Rehearsals were at St. Peter's Parish House on State Street. The Club performed their concerts in white tie and tails, and also sang at many of Albany's civic and social events. Some of the original members continued to sing with the group for thirty or forty years.

Nelson Eddy

With Dr. Rogers' death in 1934, there was a succession of conductors, including accompanist Stuart Swart, noted composer and arranger Mark Andrews, T. Frederick H. Candlyn, and J. Lawrence Slater.

Early Mendelssohn Club concerts featured performances by guest artists including Marian Anderson and Nelson Eddy.

The Middle Years

Reinald Werrenrath

In the early 1940's Reinald Werrenrath was named conductor. A former leading baritone with the Metropolitan Opera, "Werrie" was a tall, imposing gentleman with a full head of white hair. Through his New York connections, many past and present opera stars were guest artists at the Club concerts. It was not unusual to have a noted composer or arranger appear to hear his work performed!

Maureen Forrester

In 1952, Joel Dolven was appointed conductor. Joel was the first former member to become conductor. He had joined the Club in 1936 while a music teacher at Albany High School. He was Minister of Music at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Eileen Farrell

Under his leadership the quality of performance hit new heights. He remained conductor until 1967. In 1974 the Joel Dolven Vocal Awards were established in his honor, to encourage the study of vocal music.

The Club sang the next five concerts under guest conductors who were candidates for the permanent position. In 1968 Carl Steubing was named conductor. Carl, Director of Music for the Scotia-Glenville Schools, remained conductor for the next five years.

The Recent Past

J. Lawrence Coulter

In 1974 J. Lawrence Coulter was appointed conductor. Larry brought with him a rich background in both education and professional performance. He had been Professor of Music at four colleges, a vocal and instrumental soloist, a composer, an arranger, and a conductor. He was Performing Arts Specialist for the NYS Education Department. During summers he also was conductor of the Yankee Male Chorus. He remained conductor until 1984.

Again, in 1984-85, the Club performed under two guest conductors, David Janower and Myron Hermance. Myron Hermance was named conductor in the fall of 1985 and remained at the helm through the fall of 1988.

From 1989 to 2001, Jeffrey L. Vredenburg was the Club's conductor. Jeff, a graduate of Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, with a Master's Degree from SUNY Albany, is Director of Choruses for the Saratoga Springs Schools. Through his leadership, the Club continued to grow and prosper, culminating in a performance at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, which received a standing ovation.

Club Programs Club at Mormon Tabernacle

Dr. Victor Klimash, a professor of music at Union College, directed the Club from the fall of 2001 through the spring of 2011, and was thus our director at the time of our centennial in 2009.

The Club Today

In Fall 2011, the Club welcomed back Jeffrey Vredenburg as conductor.

The Mendelssohn Club of today flourishes in spirit and in song. Half of the current membership joined the Club in the last ten years. The Mendelssohn Club is one of the landmark institutions in the Northeast, and a unique part of the cultural life of the City of Albany.

Club Photo at 2011 Holiday Concert