Founded in September 1956, Fresno Community Chorus (= FCC) under the direction of Dr. Arthur Berdahl performed its first concert that November, singing Berdahl’s oratorio Judas Iscariot. The following year FCC appeared for the first time with the newly-formed Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, singing Bruckner’s Te Deum under Haig Yaghjian. In its over fifty years, FCC has worked with a number of noted conductors, including a 1963 performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music and W.A. Mozart’s Requiem under the direction of Roger Wagner. Sandor Salgo of the Carmel Bach Festival, Eugene Wahlstrom and Nick Iacovetti also directed the chorus in the early years, until the beginning in 1966 of Dr. Arthur Huff’s long-term directorship. It was during this time that the independent chorus became associated with what was then Fresno State College. The chorus performed often with the Fresno Philharmonic during Guy Taylor’s tenure as the orchestra’s conductor. Works with the orchestra included the Verdi's Requiem, and L.v. Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9. Other past directors of Fresno Community Chorus include Jack Fortner, Phyllis Irwin, Randy McChesney, Leslie Guelker-Cone, Gary Unruh, and Mark Bennett, with performances of many of the great choral works such as Johannes Brahms’ Requiem, R. Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
In addition to their own concerts and performances with the Fresno Philharmonic, the choir in more recent years has taken its musical offerings on tour. During the 1990s, Fresno Community Chorus toured Scandinavia, singing American music in three countries, and made a trip to China. In February 2006, the chorus joined in a performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem at New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. The chorus completed a pre-Olympics tour in China in March of 2008, and performed for a second time at Carnegie Hall in April 2009. In June 2009 Fresno Community Chorus toured in Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague.
Since autumn 2002 the chorus has been directed by Dr. Anna Hamre, who assumed duties as Director of Choral Activities at California State University, Fresno in August 1999. Under her leadership and with the help of its board of directors, Fresno Community Chorus continues its growing reputation for excellent work and acts as one representative of the rich arts community that is present in the Central Valley. Since Hamre became Artistic Director, the chorus has become an auditioned choir, and has added its smaller ensemble group, Coro Piccolo.
During Anna Hamre’s tenure, the chorus has presented the United States premiere of W.A. Mozart’s Mass in C minor as reconstructed by internationally renown musicologist and composer Philip Wilby, with the composer in attendance. In 2006, Fresno Community Chorus presented the world premiere of This Central Garden, honoring the beauty and bounty of the Central Valley. This work by composer Bradley Nelson was commissioned by the chorus to commemorate its 50th anniversary that year. Other notable performances in recent years have included the moving Holocaust Cantata by Donald McCullough, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). The chorus performs regularly with Theodore Kuchar and the Fresno Philharmonic, and has presented special children’s concert performances of John Rutter’s The Reluctant Dragon and The Wind in the Willows.
The aptly named Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale is made up of a diverse group of volunteer singers from Fresno and many surrounding communities. Members travel from as far away as Coalinga, Porterville, Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Madera, and other Central Valley locations to attend weekly rehearsals. The 100-plus membership includes professional musicians and music educators, as well as physicians, lawyers, teachers, students, retirees, homemakers, and others. Hundreds of singers have participated throughout the history of the chorus, and FCC can boast that several current members have been with the chorus since its beginning or very near the beginning.