The Pro Arte Singers were formed by current Artistic Director, Arthur Sjögren and a small group of professional singers who shared his dream to perform the finest choral music dating from the Renaissance to the present and to become the only fully professional chorus in the Fairfield/Westchester area.
In the following years, The Pro Arte Singers grew in artistic achievement and critical acclaim as they presented an annual concert series, periodic special additional performances, appeared at major music festivals, and made several professionally cut recordings.
A Board of Directors was formed to provide more efficient business leadership, and the group was incorporated as the Pro Arte Chamber Singers of Connecticut, Inc.
The Pro Arte Singers moved its headquarters to Stamford, CT, from New Canaan, CT, to expand the group’s exposure and provide greater community outreach to the larger population of Stamford.
The Board of Directors changed the name to Pro Arte Singers to reflect its repertoire which had grown far beyond just chamber music.
Pro Arte presented their first cabaret-style showcase including some of the best of American music such as works by Bernstein, Hart, Kern and Sondheim. This presentation became the basis for the musical portion of an annual fund raising event which now also includes a dinner and auction.
The Board moved the concert site to the First Presbyterian Church (Fish Church) on Bedford Street from St. John’s Episcopal Church to take advantage of greater seating capacity and better acoustics.
Pro Arte commissioned and presented the premiere of The Nativity of Our Lord by Robert Convery. The preparation and performance of this work was featured on Connecticut Public Television in a documentary video, a joint effort between CPTV, GTE VisNet, and PAS.
Responding to the financial challenges facing all arts groups— increasing costs and a reduction in grants and corporate contribution—the Board relinquished rental office space and cut expenditures in all major areas. In addition, the season was reduced to three concerts instead of four.
The Board also approved several innovations to build larger audiences:
- The Pro Arte Festival Chorus was formed using experienced volunteers chosen through auditions, to compliment the Pro Arte Singers, to expand the capability to perform large choral works and to increase the participation of more musicians and their families and friends in Pro Arte activities.
- The Festival Orchestra was formed at the same time. Together they now perform with The Pro Arte Singers in two concerts a year.
- To fulfill the mission to increase the knowledge and appreciation of choral music for students and adults, the Board initiated free pre-concert lectures.
The Pro Arte Singers received wide acclaim as the featured performers in the Stamford Symphony’s Holiday Concert in December.
Pro Arte presented three concerts in Stamford, with one repeat performance in October in New Haven, CT; a Benefit fundraiser in February, and hosted their first annual High School Festival in 1998, to great success. Once again Pro Arte commissioned an original work by one of America’s outstanding contemporary composers, Steven Sametz, which premiered in October.
The Pro Arte Singers continue to be, as one critic acclaimed, “the most outstanding chamber chorus in the East.” Singers are contracted per season and evaluated by the Artistic Director, qualified Board members and a choral contractor to ensure the highest caliber of performer.
Pro Arte continued its excellence by opening their 25th season in Norwalk, at the Norwalk Concert Hall in October. In December, Pro Arte continued its Traditional Candlelight Christmas, celebrated in Stamford to one of its largest audiences ever. In January PAS hosted its 2nd Annual High School Choral Festival, which was attended by eight schools and over 170 students.
Pro Arte concluded its 25th Anniversary Season with a Benefit dinner, concert and reception in February, 1999 and its final choral presentation in April.
Pro Arte returns to four concerts per season, maintaining the Traditional Candlelight Christmas Concert and the Pro Arte Male Chorus concerts as regular, annual events. The benefit dinner, concert and auction continues to anchor the group’s fund raising efforts.
In addition, Pro Arte begins to make recordings of its concerts available for sale on a regular basis. With the 2003-2004 season, the group introduces a “CD Subscription”, allowing patrons to pre-purchase the recordings.
The Pro Arte Singers and Festival Chorus are supported by private contributions and subscription ticket sales along with grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts as well as private industry and foundations.