History, Mission, and Vision
People throughout the Philadelphia region find fulfillment and inspiration through music, fellowship, and service to their community.
Singing City was founded as an integrated choir in 1948 in Philadelphia by Dr. Elaine Brown. The Choir was born out of the Fellowship House movement, which believed that differences between races, religions, and cultures could be bridged by ordinary people coming together in shared activities. In addition to performances in and around Philadelphia, the Choir traveled to the South during the 1950s and '60s struggle for civil rights, performing before integrated audiences. As a result of critical acclaim through performances with The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Choir was invited to perform in Israel with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic and also in Jordan and Egypt while on tour in the 1970s and 80s. Singing City was the first western choir to perform with the Leningrad Philharmonic in Leningrad in 1990. In May 2000, Singing City was the lead choir at the First International Choral Festival de Cuba. The choir toured Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the summer of 2004 and Brazil in 2009. Singing City traveled to Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia in July 2012. The choir will travel to South Africa in the summer of 2016.
Elaine Brown, Founder
She was born Elaine Isaacson in the northeast Pennsylvania town of Ridgeway in 1910. Her mother was an organist and choirmaster, taking her to choir rehearsals as a baby in a basket and later serving as her first piano teacher. She left Ridgeway at the age of sixteen to pursue a degree in music education at the Bush Conservatory (now Northpark College) in Chicago. In 1929 Dr. Brown began her first teaching job in Jamestown NY, but when Westminster Choir College under the direction of John Finley Williamson, came through Jamestown on a concert tour, she became so inspired she gave up her teaching job to pursue another bachelors degree at Westminster, receiving that degree in 1934. She received a Masters degree from Temple in 1945.
At that time she joined the faculty at Temple University. It was during this period of her career that she was contacted by Fellowship House to discuss the establishment of a volunteer choir open to community members. Within the first few seasons, the Choir was presenting over 45 performances each year. After a one year sabbatical spent serving on the faculty of the Julliard School at the invitation of William Schuman, she returned to Philadelphia and in 1948, transformed the Fellowship House Choir into Singing City, now one of the most respected cultural institutions in the City. Elaine Brown resigned her appointment at Temple in 1956 and Singing City became her "life" (and some would say obsession) until her retirement in 1987. Elaine Brown passed away in 1997 at the age of 87.
The recipient of many awards and recognitions from musical and humanitarian organizations, including The Philadelphia Award, Elaine Brown, pictured above with Marian Anderson, was also the first American woman to conduct The Philadelphia Orchestra. Her honors are impressive but it was Singing City that held her heart.
Elaine Brown: Breaking Down Barriers Through Song from the ACDA Choral Journal, December 2017