Our Mission Statement

The Downers Grove Choral Society provides our members the opportunity to achieve excellence in the performance of worthy choral music. We provide audiences in the greater Chicago area the opportunity to hear quality performances of a wide variety of choral repertoire. We proudly anchor ourselves in Downers Grove as we continue to build a community of musicians, audience members, and supporters.
-Adopted May 2012

History of the DGCS

The Downers Grove Choral Society (DGCS), a volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to the performance of outstanding choral music, has been giving concerts in the western suburbs of Chicago since 1959.

Originally named the Downers Grove Oratorio Society, the DGCS was formed in 1959 by Thelma Roe Milnes and Donald Drew. For many years prior to this time, a tradition existed to perform Handel’s Messiah annually in the churches of Downers Grove. The Society was founded to perpetuate this tradition, to allow for performances of additional major choral works, and to encourage all singers in the community to participate in programs of choral excellence.

Since its founding in 1959, the DGCS has earned a reputation for excellence, and has developed a loyal following in the community. Through the past 54 years the DGCS has:

  • Built upon the original intentions of the founders, including professional soloists and orchestras in a three-concert season.
  • Added an outreach program, to entertain the underserved at senior facilities.
  • Expanded the outreach program to provide entertainment for community events, such as Grove Fest, Memorial Day commemoration and the Fourth of July Parade.
  • Provided children’s concerts for the community and established an award to Junior High choral students, to promote a tradition of musical education at an early age.
  • Sponsored an Artist Recital Series to support excellent local musicians by providing opportunities to perform and be heard.

Now in its 60th season, the group marks as major achievements its many collaborations with orchestras, choral groups, and children’s groups through the years, its premier and commissioned works (most recently in 2011) and the programs that have featured Metropolitan Opera Star Sherrill Milnes, who sang with the group and whose mother was a co-founder. The DGCS also enjoyed being part of the chorus for the 1997 performance of Elijah at Carnegie Hall in New York under Mr. Milnes’ direction.

Throughout its history the DGCS is proud to have been led by many outstanding directors: Thelma Roe Milnes (1959-1969); Margaret Bollinger (1970-1987); Gregory Sullivan Isaacs (1889-1992); Robert Holst (1992-2011); Amy Weller (2011-2012); and most recently, John Patrick Rakes (2014-present).

The chorus presently consists of approximately 45 dues-paying members, many of whom have trained voices. Today the Society’s performances present some of the finest singers and instrumentalists in the Chicago area, and its repertoire has expanded to include not only the great works of the masters but also the distinguished works of later and contemporary composers. In addition to the enrichment of the community with exceptional concerts, the Society provides talented singers with opportunities to learn and perform outstanding choral works.

To see a video with more details about the DGCS, click on the links below:

DGCS History: Part I

DGCS History: Part II

Why do you love to sing?

Melody, harmony, rhythm. It takes me away from normal life and absorbs all my attention. There’s so much joy in making a thing of beauty.

What is your favorite thing about singing with DGCS?

The amount of volunteer time and effort that many members are willing and able to give to ensure the present and future of DGCS.

Why do you love to sing?

Because I feel needed.

Music provides a pleasant escape from my busy life.