Waukesha Choral Union has had the pleasure of offering this free community concert for over 40 years. WCU roots go back to the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah at Carroll University.  The Messiah is offered in a rotation with Haydn’s Creation, and is supported by area businesses, foundations, and benefactors, as well as through generous donations from patrons.  Before their deaths, former WCU singers Fred and JoAnn Portz were instrumental in funding this community endeavor for now and the future.  Artistic Director Michael Chapel conducts the performance comprised of choir, orchestra, and soloists.  The choir is made up of Waukesha Choral Union members and volunteer community singers.  Community singers interested in joining the performance must attend three rehearsals, but do not need to audition.  The music score is provided by WCU.

Fred & JoAnn Portz
Fred & JoAnn Portz

A Tribute to The Portz Family...

JoAnn passed away on July 13, 2013, preceded in death on September 3, 2010 by her husband, Fred. The Waukesha couple played an integral role in Waukesha Choral Union’s artistic and financial success. In fact, it is because of their generosity that you are able to enjoy today’s concert (Creation 3/2014).  Please learn more about this wonderful gift from an extraordinary couple as described by Tom Custis, WCU’s former president:

The couple behind “Handel’s Messiah” and “Creation” In the early years of the Waukesha Choral Union, an idea was hatched to put on a community concert. The chorus was to perform “Handel’s Messiah” and admission would be free. Artistically, it would be desirable to have professional soloists, as well as professional orchestral accompaniment.

But that would take money. Fred Portz, an erstwhile bass in the chorus, quickly became its champion. He personally accepted responsibility for providing and raising funds to make this happen. Early on, the tradition was expanded to include an invitation to all singers within the community to join in the uplifting experience of performing this wonderful work. Many years later, in order to provide some variety, it was decided that “Haydn’s Creation” could be performed as an alternative.

Throughout, the traditions of free admission, inclusion of community singers, and presentation at the highest artistic level were continued; and Fred’s support never faltered. Fred’s wife, JoAnn, was also in the Choral Union, and joined Fred in the active support of this annual project. When Fred passed away, JoAnn continued supporting the project with her voice and her financial support. Even now that they have both passed away, the Choral Union continues to receive financial support in their memory.

It is no overstatement to say that we would not be here today enjoying one of the world’s great musical accomplishments, were it not for Fred and JoAnn Portz. It is for that reason that the Board of Directors of the Waukesha Choral Union has voted to designate this annual event the Fred and JoAnn Portz Community Concert. We hope that you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoy performing it; all with the fondest of memories of our friends Fred and JoAnn.

Tom Custis
Waukesha Choral Union President, 2007 - 2013

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