The Cairo Choral Society

By Alia Moustafa

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Founded in 1983 by Larry P. Catlin, The Cairo Choral Society has long since then been the angelic voice of long gone music composers.  The choir has had truly mesmerizing performances, and their music, along with their synchronized vocals, have all been captivating and relaxing to the nerves.

To learn more about The Cairo Choral Society, I sat down with Mrs. Catharine Moustafa, Membership Officer, to find out more about the group and the idea behind it.

What is your role in the organization?

I am in charge of gathering and keeping the members’ contact details.  I also compose and send circular email announcements to the members containing information they need to know, like when rehearsals will start, if a rehearsal is cancelled or an additional rehearsal is planned and if there is a trip coming up.

What drove you to join the choir?

I like to sing and have always wanted to join a choir, but I thought that they only belonged to churches.  In 2004, I met a classmate who was a member of this group, and she encouraged me to join.

How did the choir begin?

It was originally established by Catlin, the Director of Music at the American University in Cairo (AUC) at that time.  The first members to join were friends and acquaintances of his from inside and outside of the university community.

Although we now always perform at AUC, the choir was not an “AUC activity” until about five years ago.  Our music director and conductor, Dr. John Baboukis, is the current Director of the Music Program at the university.

What is the choir’s purpose?

To get together and perform the great works of the significant music composers who played a role in shaping the classical music industry and audience today.  We perform musical pieces mainly by Britten, Vaughn Williams, Beethoven, Rossini, Händel and Puccini.

Who are the members of the society?

Our members are students, professionals and retired music lovers from all around the world.  AUC students may join either as a for-credit course at the university, or on a not-for-credit basis.  Anybody who loves to sing is welcome to join, and they do not have to be professional musicians or know how to read music.

What is the secret behind the choir’s flawless performances?

The “Advisory Committee” is in charge of making the necessary decisions and taking the actions we need to create a smooth performance, where officers deal with the borrowing and returning of the music we use to sing along to.

We also have a librarian who photocopies the music and keeps a record of what music is with which member, and whether or not it is returned, and our stage manager makes sure everything is set for our performance.

The “fundraiser” contacts various organizations to get them to donate to the choir, which we then use, along with the dues paid by the members, to hire soloists and an orchestra for our performances.  All of these, among others, are essential in helping everything run as perfectly as possible.

What do the members achieve from being in The Cairo Choral Society?

Other than learning new skills and enhancing current ones that help us to sing better, we are also introduced to new and more challenging pieces of music, and get to do this in a friendly and enjoyable environment.

How big of a group is the choir?

It varies, but usually anywhere between 40 to 80 members.  Each season is different, depending on what music we will be performing, and the choir is usually larger during the fall, before Christmas, than in the spring.

Where can people go to watch the choir perform?

We now mostly perform at AUC’s Ewart Hall or Malak Gabr hall, however, for years, we performed regularly at All Saints Cathedral in Zamalek and occasionally at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the German Church on Galaa Street, The British School in Sheikh Zayed and the small hall at the Cairo Opera House. 

Any future plans for The Cairo Choral Society?

We are trying to increase the number of performances and enhance our musical variety to include as many composers as we can. 

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