Our musical leadership
Christine Noel was appointed artistic director in 2013, succeeding Betsy Burleigh. Noel is also the founding director of the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus. She holds a Master of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts from Boston University.
John Black is the Singers’ assistant conductor, collaborating with the artistic staff and performing with the Singers as pianist and organist. His recent projects with the Singers include preparing the chorus for a performance of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and creating choral arrangements for performance and publication. Black is director of music at Greenwood Church, where he founded and conducts the 50-voice Greenwood Concert Choir for the Music at Greenwood community concert series, frequently with professional orchestra. He is working toward the Master of Sacred Music degree in organ at Boston University and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and music education (respectively) from Rhode Island College. He also serves as principal pianist and organist for the Rhode Island Children’s Chorus and recently performed in the Newport Music Festival.
Our emerging organization
Beginning in the late 1990s, the Singers entered a period of explosive growth. Already there had been successful collaborations in Boston and enthusiastic critical notice. Talented choral singers were seeking auditions in greater numbers, and the group had begun to expand from 75 voices toward its current membership of almost 120. Audiences doubled; the budget doubled, then doubled again.
In January 2000, as part of its investment in Rhode Island’s non-profit leadership, the Rhode Island Foundation awarded Providence Singers President Allison McMillan a 12-month fellowship to study choral groups that had made the transition from small amateur associations to performing arts organizations of regional or national significance. The Singers also became a member of Chorus America, the national association for choruses and choral leadership, and sought additional information from national associations designed to support non-profit organizations.
A year later, in January 2001, the Providence Singers Board began its first strategic planning process that culminated in the completion and approval of the organization’s first strategic plan in May 2001. This plan laid out a vision of the Singers as a choral organization dedicated to performance excellence. In August 2001, the Singers hired McMillan as its first executive director. At its annual meeting in June 2002, the membership of the Providence Singers adopted new bylaws effective July 1, 2002.
A second strategic plan adopted in 2005 sought to consolidate artistic gains by giving the organization a more effective administrative structure to support the artistic vision. In 2005 the Board authorized rental of an administrative office and additional administrative staff. The office and rehearsals moved to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Carter Center for Music Education in East Providence in 2008.
The third strategic plan, approved in November 2008, enhanced choral excellence and leadership provided the Board governance, fundraising, and administrative capacity to sustain the artistic vision and programs.
Julian Wachner, Charles Fassett, and Andrew Clark celebrated the Singers’ success at the June 2008 gala.
In the beginning, the Providence Singers was a group of approximately 60 auditioned voices advertising its programs as “little-known works by well-known composers and well-known works by little-known composers.” The group provided satisfaction and enjoyment for singers and audience in small spaces throughout the East Side of Providence with occasional forays into small spaces outside the city.
The Providence Singers was officially established in 1971-72 by Robert Molison, then director of the Brown University Chorus, and Glenn Giuttari and John Duffy, graduate students at Brown. Molison served as artistic director the first two seasons. In the fall of 1973, Charles Fassett, a Wheaton College professor and chorus director, became artistic director and, with accompanist William MacPherson, led the Singers for 22 seasons, establishing it as a permanent part of the Providence musical community.
Fassett retired in 1995 and Julian Wachner was appointed artistic director for the 1996-97 season. After Wachner’s ten-year association with the Singers, years marked by increasing artistic excellence and critical and popular acclaim for the group, Andrew Clark became artistic director for 2006-07 season. After five years with the Singers, Clark was appointed director of choral activities at Harvard University.
In the summer of 2011, the Providence Singers appointed Betsy Burleigh as its fifth artistic director. A graduate of Indiana University (Bachelor of Music Education with distinction, vocal concentration), Burleigh earned graduate degrees in choral conducting at the New England Conservatory of Music (Master of Music with distinction) and Indiana University (Doctor of Music). In 2012, Burleigh accepted a tenured appointment to the music faculty at Indiana University, with leave to complete the concert seasons of the Providence Singers and Chorus pro Musica in Boston.
Christine Noel was appointed the Singers’ sixth artistic director, beginning with the 2013-14 season.