River City Chorale

The River City Chorale's mission is to bring a variety of fine choral music at the lowest possible cost to the broadest possible audiences. The River City Chorale strives to enhance vocal arts in the region, provide volunteer support to other community nonprofits, and bring recognition to Sacramento by performing an international concert tour every three years. The Chorale also encourages youth choir participation by showcasing at least one local youth choir in our spring concert production.

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Address: 6925 Waterview Way
Sacramento, CA 95831
County or Parish: Sacramento
Executive Director: Richard Morrissey
Contact Email: marilee.e.keene@gmail.com
Primary Phone: 916-212-0393
Website: http://rivercitychorale.org/
The River City Chorale is the longest-standing community choral organization in the Sacramento region. The 60-voice RCC has been bringing fine choral music to the region for over four decades. Founded in 1977 by Mary and Bob Balkow, the Chorale has had four musical directors: Jack Carey, Walter Kerfoot, Mel Olson, and, since 1991, Richard Morrissey. The River City Chorale is the only mixed chorus of its size -- approximately 55 men and women -- that performs in the Sacramento area. The auditioned members come from all over the region, some carpooling for over an hour, to rehearse weekly from September to May. Committed to excellence, the singers work hard and have fun together preparing and performing three distinctively different sets of concerts each season.

The Chorale also works with area conductors to showcase youth choirs in at least one concert production during the season. To promote participation in music among local young people, the Chorale has developed a "young Artists" project. Following auditions, a committee selects an outstanding individual or school choir to perform during one of our spring concerts. This provides an opportunity for community youth to perform and be recognized in front of a broader community audience. The Chorale awards a certificate and stipend to any school organization that is selected.

A small orchestra of visiting musicians accompanies the holiday concerts in December. A three piece combo plays with the singers for the Pops Concert shows in March, and a professional pianist (who is also the rehearsal accompanist) plays for the spring concerts. The Chorale sings all styles of music, from baroque to contemporary, from classical cantatas to popular Broadway tunes and medleys. Membership is open to all adults, subject to audition and the needs of each vocal section. Each member pays $175 per year in dues, for the privilege of singing with the organization. Paying their own way, Chorale members have been performing internationally every third year since 1983.

Tours have taken the Chorale to Canada, the British Isles, Brazil, Ireland, and four countries in Western Europe. The River City Chorale operates on a modest budget of approximately $60,000 per year, relying on revenue from membership dues, ticket sales, fundraisers, advertisements in printed programs, and donations. The Board contracts annually for the services of a musical director, piano accompanist, and webmaster. The Chorale has no office and no paid administrative staff. Chorale members volunteer to serve on the board of directors and various committees to handle all administrative duties. The members of the Chorale donate over 3,000 hours of volunteer time per fiscal year. According to Independent Sector, volunteer time to nonprofits in 2014 was valued at $23.07 per hour. Based on that figure, RCC members donate over $69,000 worth of volunteer hours each year.
The River City Chorale is self-funded through concert ticket sales, business and individual donors, advertisers, raffles held during the spring concert, member dues, and fundraising activities such as the annual Race for the Arts, RADA fundraising, and SmileAmazon. The expenses of the chorale include paying the chorale director and accompanist for their services, paying visiting musicians providing accompaniment for concerts, paying for lighting and sound technicians for concerts, storage for our music library, new music, and printing expenses for publicity and concert programs. The chorale has no office costs and volunteers from the chorale provide all administrative support activities.

Expenses routinely exceed income and we are, therefore, always interested in raising public awareness about the choir, increasing attendance and awareness of our concerts, and promoting our efforts to encourage and showcase youth choirs during some of our concerts. Fundraising through the Big Day of Giving provides a wonderful mechanism to raise community awareness of the chorale and to raise much-needed funds.
Our top needs:
  1. Funding: Program - Concert underwriters: The cost per concert set is ~ $17,000. We perform three concert 'sets' annually: three Holiday performances, two Pops Concerts, and two Spring concerts.
  2. Funding: Other - Marketing and publicity services: For 41 years, we have relied on volunteer services of members to market and publicize the River City Chorale. We have an average of 60 members, only a couple of whom have professional background in these fields. It is difficult to find volunteer members willing to commit to these services year after year.
  3. Funding: Other - Sponsorship of visiting instrumentalists to accompany the Chorale: Approximately $7,070 of our $55,335 annual budget (13.0%) goes toward paying professional orchestra and band musicians to enhance our choral performances.
  4. Space: Office or Other - Storage for our music library: We have thousands of pieces of music that need to be in storage units that are climate-controlled, secure, and easily accessible. We currently pay $3,600 per year to rent two storage units.
  5. Funding: Other - Accounting services: We rely on one of 55-60 members to serve as RCC Treasurer. It is very difficult to find a volunteer with the computer (Quickbooks) accounting, and tax-filing skills to fill this position. Our treasurer volunteers about 130 hours per year. One firm offered to provide accounting and tax-filing services for $3,000/year.
"The River City Chorale provides an opportunity for adults to socialize, as well as sing. Group singing benefits the heart, lungs, and mental alertness, and also serves to reduce anger, depression, stress, and anxiety. The Chorale, in particular, offers the additional benefit of belonging to a group of men and women who socialize and care about each other on a personal level. Rehearsal breaks, retreats, parties, and group travel allow time for meeting new people, sharing experiences, forming new friendships, and encouraging a sense of 'family' and community. Over the years, RCC has made accommodations for members who are blind, in wheelchairs, and in early stages of dementia. We now have a Young Artists Program, which gives youth interested in vocal music an opportunity to perform before a live audience.

Richard Morrissey, musical director since 1991, offers this perspective: 'I love directing the River City Chorale because we are the one group in Sacramento that sings all kinds of music, from baroque to jazz, Broadway, folk, and rock opera.' A member for nearly 35 years, Pat Junod emphasizes that 'the variety of our performances broadens the interest in music for ourselves and our audiences.' Retired Elk Grove teacher Myron Jantzen speaks lovingly about the experiences he and his wife (recently deceased) have shared: 'My wife Joan and I have sung and toured with the Chorale for over 20 years. It has given us an artistic outlet that we found no other way.' After serving four years as board president, Meg Burnett offers this perspective: 'I have always loved to sing with groups who can make beautiful music. My 15 years in RCC have been a real treat and a lesson in great teamwork.' Ken Eikelmann, a long-time member from South Sacramento, comments on the international tour experience, for which singers pay their own way: 'We've sung country music in Brazil, classical music in the Czech Republic, and patriotic songs in Canada. In Rome, the Cardinal followed us out to the steps of the Cathedral and led us in 'amens'. Audiences everywhere are curious and welcoming to the Chorale from Sacramento, California, USA.' In a review of the River City Chorale's December 2014 concert, Dick Frantzreb, Executive Director of the Sacramento Valley Choral Coalition said: 'This was one of the most diverse concerts you might expect to hear at Christmastime. The big challenge in a Christmas concert is to avoid the music everyone gets on the radio, at the mall, etc., and still provide the familiar, satisfying sounds and texts of the season. Year after year, the River City Chorale succeeds brilliantly in this.'"

Richard Morrissey
Executive Director
River City Chorale
-- Richard Morrissey, Executive Director