History - by Helen Waldschmidt
In the spring of 1975, after having lived in Grafton for six months, I, Helen Waldschmidt called the Grafton Village Hall to inquire whether any existing choral groups were located in Grafton or in the surrounding area. I was told that even though there were no community choruses in Ozaukee County, Lou Cisto, the Grafton High School choral director, would be the person to contact. When I talked with Lou, he said that he would be interested in directing a chorus for the community, but wanted no part in organizing it. If a chorus were organized, he wanted only to direct and not to be burdened with any business, financial or operating activities. After I said that I was willing to organize it, he agreed to be the director and said that he would contact Kathy Thome, a pianist from Grafton, who had accompanied a few Grafton High School musicals for him. We established the first rehearsal date, time and place, which was the Grafton High School Choral room.
Immediately, I contacted the Ozaukee County newspapers, placing articles about the creation of the chorus and including application blanks for prospective members to fill out and send in. I received many, many responses, some of which are shown in the beginning of the Ozaukee Chorus's 30th anniversary video. Sometime in August, I called all the people who had filled out and sent in an application, informing them of the upcoming rehearsal.
In early September, 1975 the first rehearsal of the Community Chorus, under the sponsorship of the Grafton Recreation Department, began with 115 members.
Some high school chorus members' parents joined, two of whom were willing to be the President and Vice-president. I took on the jobs of membership chairperson and publicity chairperson for several years. Initially, the board discussed and implemented some basic rulings and procedures for the chorus. Eventually, a charter was written for the chorus.
In 1976, the chorus became independent of the Grafton Recreation Department and was named the Grafton Community Chorale. Again the name was changed to the Ozaukee Community Chorale in 1979 and in 1981 to the current The Ozaukee Chorus.
From the beginning, the chorus gave two concerts per year: a Christmas concert and a spring concert in May. In addition, over the years the chorus occasionally sang at the beginning of the Grafton July 4th fireworks display, for the Grafton and Cedarburg Christmas tree lighting ceremonies and during several of the liturgies of many of the Ozaukee County churches. For some years, the chorus participated in the Grafton Christmas parade held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Scholarships were awarded to one student from each of the five Ozaukee County high schools beginning in 1991. These scholarships are awarded to high school students interested in continuing their music education and are based on recommendations given by high school music teachers.
Sometime during the years that Mark Kimball was the director of the chorus, the solicitation for ads for the concert program booklet was initiated to bring in more revenue for scholarship winners. Ads were solicited by chorus members in the spring of each year for the spring concert program booklet and incorporated as line ads in the Christmas concert program booklet.
According to the concert programs kept by historian Ann Turney, a charter member, who put together and still maintains albums of programs, posters, photographs and newspaper articles for the chorus, the first time the chorus sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth" was at the end of a Christmas concert in 1981. Since then, the song has been the chorus's signature piece.
In the spring of 2005, the chorus celebrated its 30 year anniversary (even though our chorus had been in existence for 31 years at that point). Several choral members helped me in organizing the celebration which was held at the Rose-Harms Legion Post in Grafton. As part of of the program, a video of the chorus was shown, which included snips of chorus videos, photographs, newspaper articles, some posters etc., all accompanied by parts of some audio tapes that the chorus had made though the years. All of this historic information (audio and visual tapes, photos etc) were lent to me by several long-time members including Ann Turney. After I corroborated the dates, reviewed the tapes many times and selected which information I felt gave a fairly accurate overview of the chorus’s history etc., I turned the materials over to a videographer who made the video. To pay for the expense of the video, I sold many tapes after the 30th anniversary celebration and was given $100 by the Ozaukee Chorus treasurer to pay the remainder of the bill.