Now in his eighth season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the West Village Chorale, Colin Britt also serves as Director of Choral Activities at Mount Holyoke College. Prior to his current positions, he served for seven years as Choir Director at Rutgers Preparatory School and for ten years as Director of Music at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City. He has also served on the conducting faculty at SUNY New Paltz and the Hartt School, as director of Amuse Singers and North River Sing, and he is the founding director of Terpsichore Ensemble. In spring 2023, Colin was one of the principal conductors for the Lincoln Center premiere of Jonathan Dove’s “Search for Spring.” Colin completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting at Rutgers in 2016, where he studied with Patrick Gardner; as a graduate student and teaching assistant, he directed the Rutgers University Choir and taught undergraduate conducting for three years.
Colin’s compositions have been performed by ensembles at Rutgers, Westminster Choir College, Hartt, Yale, and Seraphic Fire, the Yale Schola Cantorum, the Yale Alumni Chorus, C4, VOCE, and the Riverside Choral Society, and by ensembles across the country and on four continents. In April 2019, the Rutgers University Voorhees Choir premiered his work “Imagination” at Carnegie Hall. He was the commissioned composer for the Maine Bicentennial, the 100th anniversary of the Hartt School, and the 2020 ACDA Eastern Division Honor Choir, and his composition won first prize in the 2021 Missoula Community Chorus competition, “The Way Through.”
Colin holds degrees from the Hartt School, the Yale School of Music, and Rutgers University. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, actress Victoria Britt, their daughters Amelia and Lilah, and their dog Mari.
Elena Belli, Pianist and Assistant Conductor
Elena Belli, Pianist and Assistant Conductor, is a versatile concert artist and influential teacher who has appeared nationally and internationally as both soloist and chamber
musician. A sought-after collaborator, she has performed with prestigious instrumentalists and vocalists from leading ensembles, including the Metropolitan
Opera, New York City Opera, Orpheus, and the New York Philharmonic. She has toured throughout Europe with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, and been hailed “a
captivating performer…elegant and poetic” by the Correiro del Povo in Brazil. Closer to home, she has been heard in NYC’s major venues, as well as on WNYC and WQXR,
and been the featured soloist with local orchestras. Always a champion for new music, she has played a broad array of world premieres, some composed expressly for her.
She takes an active role in promoting young talent, is often invited to conduct Master Classes for aspiring young pianists, and for over a decade chaired the AMTL Young
Musicians Concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall. Ms. Belli holds both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. Past faculty positions have included The New School and Concordia College. Currently, she is on the piano faculty of the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Division, and the Hoff-Barthelson Music School. A devoted and valuable part of the WVC community, Ms. Belli has been the pianist for the West Village Chorale since 1988.
Rong Zhang, Assistant Conductor
A native of China, Rong Zhang is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in Choral Conducting at Manhattan School of Music, under the tutelage of Kent Tritle and Dr. Ronnie Oliver. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree with academic honors from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music degree and a Graduate Diploma from the New England Conservatory in choral conducting. During her time at NEC, she studied with Erica Washburn and has regularly conducted the NEC Chamber Singers and the Concert Choir, and served as a graduate assistant to William Drury with the NEC Symphonic Winds.
Rong has appeared as a guest conductor with the Navy Band Northeast, Cambridge A Cappella Group, Shanghai Opera House Chorus, and the Choir of the Shanghai University for Science and Technology. Besides her experience as a conductor, Rong is also a trained pianist and won first prize in the Hong Kong International Piano Competition. Before taking on her role as the assistant conductor at the West Village Chorale, Rong directed a few ensembles in Massachusetts and New York City. She previously served as assistant conductor at the Lincoln Center “Search for Spring Project” and the Oratorio Society of New York, where she had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall. Currently, she has appeared as the guest conductor with the Berlin Radio Choir, working closely with the chorus master Simon Halsey, and directed a concert with them at St. Elisabeth Kirche in Berlin.
The West Village Chorale
The West Village Chorale is a 60-voice avocational ensemble based out of Judson Memorial Church, at the south end of Washington Square Park. Our members are talented avocational singers with varied professional backgrounds (attorneys to Zumba instructors) but one shared goal: to make beautiful music. Our members give voice, leadership and passion to the Chorale.
We perform several concerts per year, with repertoire ranging from traditional choral staples to contemporary pieces (including several world premieres and commissions in recent years).
We also host an annual Caroling Walk that regularly sends hundreds of singers out around the Village, and a series of weekly Summer Sings (which recently completed their 47th summer), which allow the many choral singers in the area the chance to get together and sing through classic pieces while the choruses are summer hiatus. And our “Viva Vino” fundraiser evenings of wine flights and music have been a popular event on our calendar for several years running.
In addition to these regular and annual events, the Chorale has had the opportunity to participate in a variety of other activities—including singing with Patti LuPone and indie rock band Sky-Pony at the 2016 Park Avenue Armory Gala, at Carnegie Hall in 2017 with tenor Amine Hachem, as part of the 2018 Mile-Long Opera on NYC’s High Line, and at the United Nations with the Qatar Philharmonic in celebration of UN Day in 2019.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded and forced closures and shut-downs in 2020, the Chorale pivoted like so many groups—thanks to the persistence, creativity, and technical ingenuity of our artistic staff and dedicated volunteers–from in-person rehearsals and performances to virtual events. During the 2020-2021 season, we produced two virtual concerts and one concert recorded at Judson for broadcast. In a time when so many of us stayed home to keep ourselves and our community safe, we were pleased to offer our usual Summer Sings, Messiah Sing, and Caroling Walk in a virtual format as a way to offer our choral community in New York a means of staying connected to the music we love.
We’re excited to see rehearsal and performance opportunities return to some version of “normal” and can’t wait to see what our next half-century will bring!
Praised by the New York Times as possessing a “well-blended sound,” the West Village Chorale is a sixty-voice avocational avocational ensemble founded in 1971 by Gwen Gould. Originally established in connection with the 150th anniversary of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields as the St. Luke’s Community Chorus, the group incorporated in 1975 as the West Village Chorale.
In 2010, after many years based at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, the Chorale moved to the south end of Washington Square, the historic and acoustically magnificent Judson Memorial Church, designed by Stanford White.
Following Gwen Gould was interim Director Andrew Megill (1998–2000), and Artistic Director and Conductor Michael Conley (2000–2015). Michael developed the Chorale into an auditioned ensemble, and—in partnership with a devoted and energetic board and a motivated, talented group of singers—helped bring the Chorale to new levels of musicianship and accomplishment.
Malcolm J. Merriweather led the Chorale as Artistic Director for the 2015-16 season, continuing a tradition of excellence. Since his appointment as Artistic Director in 2016, Colin Britt has further expanded the Chorale’s repertoire and reach.
The Chorale has always performed an eclectic repertoire, including many styles of traditional and contemporary choral music, as well as commissions, performances and premieres of works by local composers including Robert De Cormier, Michael Philip Ward, Robert Beckhard, Jerome Jolles, David Goldstein, previous Artistic Director Michael Conley and current Artistic Director Colin Britt.
The Chorale had its beginnings in service to the community and has continued that tradition for the past 40 years. Our annual Caroling Walk through the streets of Greenwich Village has become a popular holiday tradition, as has our Messiah Sing. The weekly Summer Sings series provides a forum for music lovers to sing classic choral works, each led by one of the New York area’s outstanding choral conductors.