Oratorio Society celebrates 90th anniversary

The Oratorio Society of Queens is celebrating its 90th anniversary.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Angelica Acevedo

Queens’ very own Oratorio Society is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, billing itself as the oldest performing cultural organization in the borough.

“[The Oratorio Society of Queens] is an independent, member, voluntarily run community chorus,” Charlene DeGregoria, the president of the OSQ board of directors, said. “Everything that is done to keep this organization alive and well, and running successfully for 90 years, has been through the hard work, dedication and strength of its members.”

To celebrate the milestone, a 90th Anniversary Gala will take place Sunday, June 25, at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck.

DeGregoria has been a member of the OSQ for 26 years. She started out as a second alto, became a member of the board for 20 years, and now serves as the president for the fourth consecutive year.

DeGregoria said that becoming a part of the OSQ has been “life changing.”

What makes the OSQ a unique choral organization is not only that it represents the diversity of the people that Queens shelters, but also that the members are not professional singers — instead they come from all walks of life.

DeGregoria explained that the society’s system — which involves a combination of auditions, weekly rehearsals, members studying their music at home, and responsiveness to the conductor’s instructions — prepares them to perform classical music and complex holiday and Americana pieces.

“I believe OSQ offers all us dreamers, who dream of singing beautifully, that opportunity,” DeGregoria said.

She credits David Close, the artistic director and conductor, for helping them all achieve this with a “warm sense of humor and an iconic New York attitude.”

Close has been involved with the OSQ for nearly 50 years. He and his wife, Treasurer and Administrative Director LeeAnn Close, are among the honorees of the 90th Anniversary Gala.

“It’s always flattering to be recognized, but it’s more important that the organization is recognized for its mission to bring the greatest of choral music of Western civilization and all of the music that is part of the great diversity of the American choral tradition,” Close said.

He also praised his wife, LeeAnn, for bringing up the organization to “contemporary business standards.”

“Arts organizations require great artistic leadership, but they require, perhaps even more, a strong organizational capacity to make it function,” Close said.

New York State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) is another honoree of the night. According to Close, Weprin is vital to the OSQ.

“As a member of the City Council and state Assembly, [Weprin] understood the need for the kind of funding that the Oratorio Society of Queens, and the arts in general, require to do its great community work,” Close said.

He added that the OSQ board is key to everything they do.

“Without the fabulous board that we have, nothing great would be accomplished,” he said.

For more information about the 90th Anniversary Gala and news on upcoming concerts, visit the society’s website at www.queensoratio.org.

More from Around New York