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The Rockingham Choral Society was organized in March 1957 with the dream of performing choral masterpieces from all periods, including works with orchestra. One year later the dream became a reality as seventy voices combined with fourteen orchestra members in a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Exeter Town Hall. John D. Wicks, Professor of Music at the University of New Hampshire, founded and directed the group in its early years.

Since that first concert in Exeter fifty years ago the Choral Society, with membership ranging from forty to ninety voices, has presented annual choral concerts in the Christmas season and in the spring to audiences in the New Hampshire seacoast area.

The group has been accompanied by a number of distinguished local musicians over the years, beginning with the late Madeline Meredith and continuing with Margery Forbes, Jeffery Bunker, Vickee Patch, Edie Adams, and for eleven years Gail Adams of Kittery. Jeannie Goodwin of Dover is currently in her 17th  year as accompanist for rehearsals and performances.

A. Irving Forbes, chair of the Music Department at Phillips Exeter Academy, assumed the director’s position in 1964 and conducted the group for ten years.

In 1974, Kenneth Kiesler, a University of New Hampshire student, began his four years as music director.

In the fall of 1978 Henry Wing, then Associate Professor of Music at UNH, became director and retired with the Spring Concert of 2008 celebrating his 30th year as Director. He instituted a policy of choosing the vocal soloists from the membership and hiring the best orchestral players from New Hampshire and Maine, including faculty and students from the UNH Music Department. This has given the singers a chance to perform and our audiences the opportunity to hear many great choral masterpieces in their original form.

Currently under the baton of Director Andrew Gaydos since 2008, the group has flourished and expanded it's concerts from the traditional saturday and Sunday performnces to now include Friday night and venture into the more southern part of Rockingham county performing recently in Hampstead and at the Timberlane performing arts center in Plaistow. Dedicating one of the 2011 spring concerts and sending the proceeds to aid in the relief of the recent earthquake victims in Japan was a great success.

RCS 1957

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