HistoryIt all started with two altos, a mailing list and fond musical memories of singing together with other Berkeley students in the early '60s.
Inspired by the great times they had enjoyed as student singers, Alma Raymond, at the time a staff research associate in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Ronni Gravitz, an adviser in Career Planning and Placement, were eager for the chance to perform choral music once again.
"It was at the centennial reunion of the Cal Glee Club that some of us were complaining that there wasn't an opportunity on campus for us to sing in the type of chorus we had been involved with as student singers," said Raymond. Gravitz said she also missed singing with a medium sized chorus. "There are chamber groups and huge choruses that perform masterworks," she said, "but there is a whole repertory of a capella work that is appropriate for choruses with 50 to 60 singers."
So the women decided to try to inspire their old colleagues to join them for a risky experiment. With little more than an idea and the promise of a director, the pair hatched the idea of reuniting Berkeley alumni vocalists to sing together again.
On March 2, 1985, Gravitz and Raymond sat down at Raymond's kitchen table with husbands and kids and addressed 3,000 postcards to former Berkeley vocalists in the Bay Area announcing the formation of an alumni chorus, directed by Carol Young who at the time was the choral director of Student Musical Activities (now called University of California Choral Ensembles--UCCE).
On May 20, 1985, roughly 30 singers showed up for the group's first rehearsal. The chorus started with small concerts, singing publicly for the first time at the grand opening of Ardenwood Park in Fremont. The group performed in Bay Area churches, and made regular appearances at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco as part of the AIDS Day of Remembrance. In 1988, UC Alumni Chorus traveled to Australia to perform at the EXPO in Brisbane. This was the first of many international and domestic tours.
Although initially established for alumni of the Berkeley campus student choruses, UCAC soon opened up auditions to University faculty, staff, and alumni of other UC campuses. A percentage of membership is also open to Bay Area community singers. The chorus kept growing, both in size and musical achievement.
Raymond said the chorus is lively and diverse. "I like the mixture of ages in the chorus. We have everyone from graduate students to those of us who met decades ago as student singers….we see our old buddies and get to know new people."
Raymond said she also enjoys sharing the Hertz Hall stage with the student choruses at least once each year.
"We want people to know we are serious about the music and about the need to perform it well, but there's also a lot of fun involved in making serious music"
-- Adapted from the Berkeleyan/December 11, 1991