Singing City was founded as an integrated choir in 1948 in Philadelphia by Dr. Elaine Brown. For over half a century, Singing City has been Philadelphia’s premier avocational chorus, committed to bringing people together through music. Singing City grew out of the Fellowship House movement, which believed that differences between races, religions, and cultures could be bridged by ordinary people coming together in shared activities.
In addition to its deep commitment to inclusion and community building, Singing City has consistently achieved the highest levels of performance practice and artistry. The chorus has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leningrad Philharmonic, and Israel Philharmonic, and has to its credit a number of critically acclaimed national and international concert tours and festival appearances. The 80-member strong chorus is led by Artistic & Music Director Jeffrey Brillhart and continues to fulfill its original mission, which today encompasses educational programs for youth, the Singing City Children’s Choir and T-VOCE (Teen Voices of the City Ensemble), and programs for under-served populations.
Through Performance, Arts Education, and Fellowship, Singing City is a force for social impact, bringing people together and lifting the human spirit through the artistry of choral music.
People throughout the Philadelphia region find fulfillment and inspiration through music, fellowship, and service to their community.
Elaine Brown, Founder
She was born Elaine Isaacson in the northeast Pennsylvania town of Ridgeway in 1910. Her mother was an organist and choirmaster, taking her to choir rehearsals as a baby in a basket and later serving as her first piano teacher. She left Ridgeway at the age of sixteen to pursue a degree in music education at the Bush Conservatory (now Northpark College) in Chicago. In 1929 Dr. Brown began her first teaching job in Jamestown NY, but when Westminster Choir College under the direction of John Finley Williamson, came through Jamestown on a concert tour, she became so inspired she gave up her teaching job to pursue another bachelors degree at Westminster, receiving that degree in 1934. She received a Masters degree from Temple in 1945.
At that time she joined the faculty at Temple University. It was during this period of her career that she was contacted by Fellowship House to discuss the establishment of a volunteer choir open to community members. Within the first few seasons, the Choir was presenting over 45 performances each year. After a one year sabbatical spent serving on the faculty of the Julliard School at the invitation of William Schuman, she returned to Philadelphia and in 1948, transformed the Fellowship House Choir into Singing City, now one of the most respected cultural institutions in the City. Elaine Brown resigned her appointment at Temple in 1956 and Singing City became her "life" (and some would say obsession) until her retirement in 1987. Elaine Brown passed away in 1997 at the age of 87.
The recipient of many awards and recognitions from musical and humanitarian organizations, including The Philadelphia Award, Elaine Brown, pictured above with Marian Anderson, was also the first American woman to conduct The Philadelphia Orchestra. Her honors are impressive but it was Singing City that held her heart.