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The history of the Burbank Chorale

BURBANK: THEN & NOW

On Sept. 24, 1920, the Music Section of the Burbank Women’s Club made

its debut at the Burbank Fall Festival. Under the direction of

Charles Leroy Munro, along with his wife and accompanist Myrtle

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Radcliff-Munro, the program was a smashing success. What was not

fully evident at the performance, however, was the magnitude of their

success. The Music Section of the Women’s Club, which shortly

afterward became known as the Burbank Choral Club, would become the

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longest continuously performing arts organization in the entire San

Fernando Valley.

Shortly after its first concert, the group was renamed the Burbank

Choral Club and became its own organization independent of the

Burbank Women’s Club. This allowed the organization to accept men as

members, expand and focus solely on music. This reorganization

produced a success that allowed the group to perform in other cities.

By 1925, members had performed concerts in Glendale, Pasadena,

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Hollywood, Van Nuys, San Fernando and Long Beach. They also performed

with the Hollywood Baptist Choir and were heard on KNX, KECA and KFWB

radio stations. They were making a name for themselves beyond

Burbank.

By the 1930s, the organization had made such a name for itself

that it received recognition by prestigious organizations. The

Burbank Choral Club received the honor of being represented in the

Olympic Chorus, which performed at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer

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Olympic Games. The club’s members also performed at the Hollywood

Bowl in 1934. In 1935, they performed at the California Pacific

International Exposition in San Diego, and at the 1939 World’s Fair

in San Francisco. The community’s pride in the Burbank Choral Club

grew along with its popularity, and many local residents and

merchants made donations, usually no more than $5, to help send the

members to their destination so they could perform and not shoulder

the entire financial burden.

The 1940s saw America’s entry into World War II, and the Burbank

Choral Club drew from its talent to contribute to the war effort. The

Burbank Choral Club performed on April 21, 1942, at John Burroughs

Junior High School (as it was then) for their guests, who were U.S.

servicemen. The group sang patriotic songs along with the USO, and

the performance brought tears to the members of the audience. It was

also in 1946 that Victor Boggis took the position as director of the

Burbank Choral Club.

The 1950s and 1960s saw further success for the Burbank Choral

Club. Performances around town and in other cities continued to

generate rave reviews. Members also performed to sold-out crowds at

the Starlight Bowl as well as the Redlands Bowl, capturing headlines

not only in the local paper but in the Los Angeles Times. They

continued to perform 10 concerts a year that included their

ever-popular Christmas concert. Their success allowed them to expand,

and this expansion created a partnership with the Burbank Adult

School, where they began teaching vocal lessons, music theory and

music appreciation.

The 1970s saw the group’s success continue, and it received a

proclamation from Mayor Jarvey Gilbert making the week of June 8,

1970, Burbank Choral Club Week. This honor from the city of Burbank

marked the 50th anniversary of the organization, and the concert

tours continued, much to the delight of loyal followers. The group

performed in partnership with the city of Burbank’s Park and

Recreation Department, as well as the Burbank Unified School

District. This partnership expanded the club’s base of support as

well as helped defer the costs of performing for members.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the Burbank Choral Club continue its

concerts. Members did, however modify their name, and became known as

the Burbank Chorale. Their new name did not diminish their

performances, and they continued to perform at the Starlight Bowl,

Burroughs and Burbank high school auditoriums, City Hall

tree-lighting ceremonies, local churches and the Hall of Liberty at

Forest Lawn. They performed works by Handel, Mozart, and Leonard

Bernstein and, of course, traditional patriotic songs and Christmas

music.

The Burbank Chorale is going strong in its 83rd year of

performing. Unfortunately, because of economic conditions and less

public funding, the Burbank Chorale has had to abandon its long

tradition of free concerts. The chorale will host its annual

Christmas Concert at the Burbank 1st United Methodist Church at 700

N. Glenoaks Blvd. at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13. A small donation of $5, like

the donation residents and merchants of Burbank contributed in the

1930s, is appreciated to defer the costs of the concert. For more

information on the concert of the Burbank Chorale, please go to

www.burbankchorale.org or contact Pat Gafford at (818) 848-5416.

* CRAIG BULLOCK is the chairman of the Burbank Heritage

Commission. Reach

him at brbnkheritagecom@aol.com.


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