Who We Are

Colin Britt, Artistic Director and Conductor

Photo Credit: Jody Somers, J Somers Photography LLC
Photo Credit: J Somers Photography LLC

Originally from Maine, Colin holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition from the Hartt School, a master’s degree in choral conducting from the Yale School of Music, and a doctorate in choral conducting from Rutgers University.

He has conducted Amuse Singers, the Rutgers University Choir, the Hartford Chorale Chamber Singers, the Hartt Choir and Camerata, North River Sing, and has sung and conducted with C4 (The Choral Composer-Conductor Collective).

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 addition to conducting the West Village Chorale, Colin currently serves as Choir Director at Rutgers Preparatory School and as music director for Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City.   In Fall 2016, he served on the conducting faculty at SUNY New Paltz.  He lives in New Jersey with his wife, actress Victoria Britt, their daughter Amelia, and their dog Mari.

Elena Belli, Pianist and Assistant Conductor

Elena Belli, pianist and assistant conductor, is a versatile concert artist and influential teacher. As a performer she has appeared nationally and internationally as both a soloist and chamber musician. In New York she appears regularly with prestigious instrumentalists and vocalists from leading ensembles including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. She has also toured throughout Europe with members of the Berlin Philharmonic. New York concert venues have ranged from residencies at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery and the Empire Center for the Performing Arts in Albany, to performances at Merkin Hall, CAMI Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as multiple broadcasts on WQXR and WNYC FM Radio.

Her career is notable for its consistent tenure with ensembles including The Music in the Mountains Festival Chamber Players, the Lumese Piano Trio, Poné Ensemble for New Music, the Da Salò Chamber Artists, and the New-York-based ensemble Musical Chairs. Her expertise extends to contemporary music, including a broad array of World premieres, some of which were written expressly for her. She has also performed as a soloist with the Columbia Festival Orchestra, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Connecticut Grand Opera and Orchestra, and the Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra.

Ms. Belli holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Manhattan School of Music. She is considered by her colleagues to be an extraordinarily effective educator, teaching developing young pianists passion, joy, solid musicianship and consummate technique. Her students consistently excel at competitions, and music remains a part of their lives forever. Ms. Belli is currently Chairperson and Coordinator of the AMTL Young Musicians Concert at Carnegie Recital Hall. Piano faculty positions include the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Division, Concordia College 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

Rong Zhang, a native of Shanghai, 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 Acappella 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.

Prior to accepting the position at the West Village Chorale, Rong directed a few ensembles in Massachusetts and New York City. Rong currently serves as assistant conductor at the Lincoln Center Search for Spring Project and assistant conductor at the Oratorio Society of New York, where she had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Henco Espag, Fall 2022 Guest Conductor


Henco Espag is an active conductor, composer, arranger, pianist, music director and pedagogue, as well as a native South African and an avid lover of all things Lego. Henco served as faculty, vocal coach and music director for the Musical Theatre Department at Westminster College of the Arts and is currently on the faculty at St. Peter’s University. He served as music director for Surflight Theatre, a regional theatre on Long Beach Island, NJ, and is currently music director/conductor for The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps Symphonic Band, a 120-member LGBTQIA+ community concert band.

Henco is also the music/choir director for Judson Memorial Church at Washington Square Park, where he led the choir in a recording of James Adler’s Winter Triptych for Albany Records. The band premiered a co-arrangement by Henco of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” with soloists from the Tony-award-winning Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess in a virtual performance in 2021.

Henco is also spearheading an annual BIPOC Composition Competition to bring new voices into the concert band milieu. The LGBAC has premiered two winners’ works so far, and looks forward to continuing to showcase more under-represented voices.

Henco also works as music director in collaboration with ASL artists, and was a part of two Broadway Signs productions at the Triad Theatre with Broadway’s, Russell Harvard. Henco was the composer and sound designer for an ASL, LGBTQIA+ musical short film, Disconnected, through Hearts Productions released in 2021. Currently he is co-composer for one of the first ASL musicals ever written, working towards a full production in Spring 2023. Henco is the composer for the musical Pompeii Rising and most recently led a community project featuring a diverse cast of Judson Artists in new art and music in response to the paintings of Lee Guilliatt.

Henco is a graduate of Berklee College of Music (B.Mus), and earned his MFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.


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!


Gwen Gould

Our History

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.

Michael Conley

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.

The West Village Chorale is a member of the New York Choral Consortium and is listed on the Vocal Area Network and Choral Net.