History of the Swanhurst Chorus

ChoirSwanhurst Chorus holds the distinction of being Rhode Island's longest continually performing choral ensemble and certainly ranks among the oldest organizations of its kind in New England. Its birth took place in 1928 when Newport's "Swanhurst Estate" was bequeathed to the Art Association of Newport (now the Newport Art Museum), and The Swanhurst School of Arts was opened. The summer voice class, under the direction of Mme. Fely Clement, became very popular and soon was known as the "Swanhurst Choral Club". Thus began 90 years of fine choral presentations on Aquidneck Island: from Gilbert & Sullivan to Bach, Puccini to Mendelssohn. In 1930, Carroll W.J. Ball became director of the school and choral club and continued in this capacity until his retirement in 1968. The baton was then passed on to Walter L. Keith and then to Winfred Johnson, each of whom added his own stamp of quality and direction to the group. In 1981, Constance Andrews took the reins, broadening the vision of what has become Newport County's most active community chorus. In 1984, the Chorus became a Rhode Island independent non-profit tax-exempt organization under the name of "Swanhurst Chorus." Under the leadership of Music Director, Jonathan Babbitt, the Chorus expanded its repertoire and schedule to include five varied and highly popular performances each season including a "Messiah & Carol Sing" and a full musical theater production. In 2017 the baton was handed on the to current Music Director, Ed Milham. The chorus has successfully presented a cappella material, full choral oratorios with orchestra, chamber music, and works with piano/organ accompaniment - each genre offering a new learning experience and expansion of musical taste to the singers and audiences of Newport County and Rhode Island.

The group became an independent non-profit tax-exempt organization in 1984. The Swanhurst Chorus provides several major performances per season, including choral concerts with professional orchestra, an annual Christmas Messiah Sing-Along, an annual Dinner Theatre series and a Spring Concert. The organization also includes a group of Chamber Singers who are drawn from the larger chorus and are available (on request) to perform at special events and occasions.