An energetic group of 30 to 40 women who love to sing and entertain and are now known as The Broward Women’s Choral Group, Inc. has been active in Fort Lauderdale since 1972. Over the course of nearly five decades, the chorus has appeared throughout Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties in performances for retirement communities and civic, recreational, educational and charitable organizations. Its repertoire runs the gamut from folk songs to pop tunes, musical comedy to religious and holiday classics in two new programs each year. Its schedule includes weekly rehearsals, several winter holiday concerts, and a spring program performed throughout the area several times each month.
The group was formed in April 1972 by Marilyn J. Smith (later Marilyn McLean after her marriage) under the auspices of the Adult Education Program of the School Board of Broward County. Ms. Smith, an experienced music director with a master’s degree in Music Education from New York University, led the group for many years. Then known as the Broward Women’s Chorus, it held its first rehearsals on Wednesday mornings at the Wilton Manors Baptist Church, and has since relocated to a succession of different rehearsal spaces over the decades. Press releases and publicity flyers appealed to women who enjoyed singing, with the aim of providing “a learning as well as a performing environment for beginners as well as for singers with training.” As a sign of those times, the early publicity stated: “By meeting during daylight hours, many housewives who love to sing, but who are not free evenings, are expected to join.” Ms. Smith had ambitious goals for the group. “Apart from rehearsing and performing as a women’s chorus, the activities will include instruction in sight reading and the fundamentals of music. Musical selections for the group will range from popular and folk to classical, and the chorus will perform around Broward County.”
By Christmas of 1972, the group had 30 members and enjoyed an active season of holiday concerts at churches, civic organizations and nursing homes in Broward County.
Throughout the 70s, the chorus continued to thrive, as documented by press clippings and photographs carefully maintained by members. One entry notes that the members will always remember “… one of the most unusual programs, performed at the Women’s Correctional Institution/Prison, miles away on Rte 27.” In November 1979 Ms. Smith and about 15 chorus members traveled to Medellin, Colombia, Fort Lauderdale’s sister city, for a very memorable week of concerts and cultural exchange.
In 1976, the Adult Education Department underwent budget cuts, requiring the group to become independent; it began supporting itself through nominal membership dues, fees for performances, and occasional fundraisers.
In 2001, it incorporated as a non-profit organization in the name of BWC Choral Group, Inc., and is now funded by the Kirk Family Foundation, headed by Carson Kirk. His mother, Carolyn Kirk, a retired English and history teacher and one of the original chorus members, was active in the group, serving as its president in the 1980s. She passed away in 2015.
Since 2009, BWC has been accompanied on the piano by Carolyn Morgan of Oakland Park, a musician with an impressive resume. The group has been directed since 2015 by professional opera singer and voice teacher, Birgit Fioravante, who continues the tradition begun in 1972: setting a high musical standard and providing a learning environment for singers with a range of experience.
Nearly 50 years later, the group is going strong! There are presently about 40 members with varied backgrounds, but sharing the bond of a love of singing and brightening the lives of audiences.