Starting in 1932 as a program with the Houston Parks Department, the group was first named the Houston Community Chorus. Thanks to the oral history of Mr. Leonard Wilkins, “resident historian” and long-time Parks Department employee, we know that in the early years of Houston Community Chorus, the group was a particular project of Cora Lee Gregory Wood, a part-time Parks Department employee who served as liaison for many years between the Chorus and the Parks Department until her retirement in 1980.
In the early 1980s there was a name change from Houston Community Chorus to Greater Houston Chorus. It was also during this time period that the group ceased to be a program with the Parks Department and became an independent non-profit group with incorporation in 1988. The name change to Houston Choral Showcase occurred in 1997.
Diane Benson first joined the group as a singer, and in quick succession was made accompanist and finally Music Director in 1987, a position that she served for 30 years until June 2016.
Under Ms. Benson’s leadership during the 1980s and 1990s, the choir transitioned from a large community chorus singing traditional material to a smaller auditioned show choir performing memorized repertoire of pop, jazz, swing, gospel, and Broadway, with the addition of movement, costumes, and staging.
Houston Show Choir has participated in many artistic collaborations, and one that lasted over several years was a partnership with the Houston Concert Band under the then direction of Dr. Ken Dye. Other notable performance opportunities have included July 4th celebrations at AstroWorld, a visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, the Republican National Convention in 1992, opening ceremonies at the Johnson Space Center, a brief appearance on the TV program “America’s Got Talent”, and being selected to sing with Barry Manilow for his “One Last Time!” tour in 2016. Current regular engagements include Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker Market, Uptown Houston Holiday Lighting, The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, and Sugar Land Town Square. In addition, the group performs for private and public events throughout the Greater Houston area.
In 2017, the choir took on the name Houston Show Choir to more clearly indicate the nature of the group, and at the same time launched a second choir within the organization. The mixed choir is called Vocal Impact and the ladies choir is called Heart & Soul.
To all who have been chorus members throughout the years, we build on your heritage as we continue to offer the beauty of song to the city of Houston and beyond, under the current leadership of Jen Young. Thank you, all!
Recent Years in Review
- Diane Benson (director of 30 years) retired
- Jen Young joined as Artistic Director
- Invited to sing with Barry Manilow
- Name changed to Houston Show Choir (legal charity name remains Greater Houston Chorus)
- Original mixed choir renamed as Vocal Impact
- Heart & Soul choir (female voices) created
- Became Artist in Residence at Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet School
- Invited to sing (again!) with Barry Manilow