Oratorio Society



Ninety-five years ago, the Calvin Oratorio Society made its debut with the first of its now traditional Christmas season performances of Handel's Messiah. Since that time, the Calvin Oratorio Society has grown under the outstanding leadership of its Music Directors: Reese Veatch (1920-1923), Seymour Swets (1923-1967), Harold Geerdes (1967-1981), Howard Slenk (1981-1998), Pearl Shangkuan (1998-2003), Joel Navarro (2003-2014), and its current director, Sean Ivory.

Chorus members are of all ages and from all walks of life; all have considerable choral singing experience, and some are professional musicians and music teachers.

The Oratorio Society performs at the Covenant Fine Arts Center Auditorium on the campus of Calvin College, near the intersection of Burton and the East Beltline.

Oratorio Principal Conductor

Sean IvorySean Ivory is adjunct professor of music at Calvin College where he serves as the principal conductor of the Calvin Oratorio Society and conductor of the Campus Choir, a mixed choral ensemble with student membership from across all disciplines of the college. Since 1992, Mr. Ivory has been the vocal music instructor at Forest Hills Central High School. He is also the director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus and its select treble ensemble, Mandala. He has held positions at St. Cecilia Music Society and the North American Choral Company.

Mr. Ivory attended Northwestern University, Calvin College and Michigan State University. His choirs have performed at both state and regional conventions for the American Choral Directors Association, and have toured Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Ghana and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Ivory has arranged and composed several published works (in collaboration with Chicago composer Paul Caldwell) including Go Where I Send Thee, Ani Ma'Amin, John the Revelator, and Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down. Hope for Resolution: A Song for Mandela and DeKlerk continues to be a staple of choirs all over the world, and was recently recorded on the CD/DVD A St. Olaf Christmas in Norway. Mr. Ivory’s works are published by Earthsongs, GIA Music and Hal Leonard. In 2014, Paul and Sean conducted a concert of their music at Carnegie Hall in New York City.


Our History

Since its founding, the Oratorio Society has performed many of the greatest oratorios of our time. In addition to the annual performances of Handel's Messiah, the Society's performances have ranged from a staged version of Mendelssohn's Elijah to a United States premiere of MISA 2000, a work by celebrated Filipino composer Ryan Cayabyab.

Other highlights of past performances include works by Bach (Easter Oratorio, St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion), Brahms (Requiem), Handel (Saul), Haydn (Creation), Mendelssohn (St. Paul), Mozart (Exultate), Rutter (Requiem), and Vaughan Williams (Five Mystical Songs).