In 1947, a group of Abington High School Alumni decided they wanted to continue singing and performing in a choir. A meeting was held with their former music teacher, T. Carroll O’Brien (‘Obie,’ as he was affectionately called), and the Abington Choral Club was born, with Obie as the music director. Obie never lived to see the first formal concert presented in May 1948 at Abington High School auditorium, under the musical direction of Henry R. Casselberry.
The early years were difficult ones, as the ACC struggled to survive. Membership fluctuated and musical leadership changed each year or two. The first permanent director was Theodore Nitsche, music director at Olney High School, who led the ACC from 1953 until 1957. After he left,the ACC was without a director for a year.
In search of a permanent director, ACC members found a young music teacher at Jenkintown High School, who had been recommended to them by Fred Waring. In 1958, J. Frank Kuykendall joined the Club as its music director. Frank’s enthusiasm and musical expertise provided ACC with the energy it needed. As ACC began to grow in size and to improve in sound, style, and musical performance, audience attendance increased. The musical reputation of ACC spread throughout the community and Frank continued as the musical director for 26 years.
In May 1984, ACC was incorporated as a non-profit organization and new bylaws were established. With the new status, ACC became eligible to seek outside funding in the form of grants. In recognition of its service to the community, ACC became the recipient of four music performance assistance grants from the Montgomery County Foundation. In addition, support was received from companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Cigna Corporation, Sun Company, and Mellon Bank, which participated in Matching Gift Programs.
Frank Kuykendall retired in 1984 and Edward Conrad, who originally joined ACC as a singer in 1984, became interim music director. From the first rehearsal, the chorus and Ed clicked – and the first Spring Concert under his tenure was a smashing success. Thus began Ed’s 18-year stint with ACC as music director. Under Ed’s leadership, ACC developed a rich choral blend and experienced tremendous growth, doubling in size to more than 90 members. As its reputation spread, ACC began performing to standing room only crowds in the auditorium and outside engagements became more frequent. Ed retired as music director in 2001 and Jason Iannuzzi was appointed interim music director while the ACC executive committee searched for a permanent director.
In 2002, Robert Goltz, choral director at Cheltenham High School, accepted the ACC position. Bob’s musical talent, technical expertise, and energizing spirit inspired ACC members to take each performance to new heights. Bob expanded the club’s outreach activities by collaborating with the Pennsylvania Youth Chorale for their 9th Annual Generations Concert in spring 2003, and by inviting the Old York Road Symphony Orchestra to join the ACC for its 57th Annual Winter Concert in December 2004. In 2006, the group continued its collaboration with the Old York Road Symphony by performing The Creation by Haydn with the orchestra. In 2006, ACC was honored to perform at Longwood Gardens as part of the renowned Holiday Celebration. The Old York Road Symphony again joined ACC for its Winter Concert in 2007. In 2008, Bob stepped down as music director and Keith Beale joined ACC as interim music director for the Spring 2008 season.
Following an intense and competitive search in June 2008, the ACC selected Peter A. Hilliard as its new music director. Peter is an award-winning composer, pianist and free-lance musical director of many local productions. He maintains a private voice, piano, and composition studio. His work as a composer and as a teacher is built around forging new trails with old tools, to create vibrant new work with deep roots in traditional forms.
Peter has lead the group with enthusiasm and innovation. Our Winter 2008 concert included Bach’s Sicut Locutus Est, Vittoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, along with two original pieces by our director. Our Spring 2009 Concert – “If Music Be the Food of Love” – included Peter’s original compositions of several ACC recipes set to Polonaise, Habanera and Blues motifs, and his arrangement of the Irish Vaudeville favorite, “Who Threw the Overalls?”
Today, ACC has more than 80 members of all ages and many different backgrounds – but, all with one common bond – a love of music. ACC celebrates a rich history of performing a wide variety of musical genres to appreciative audiences around the region. We are indebted to those who have been loyal concert attendees and to our patron sponsors, as well as our family and friends who support our community service mission..