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COLLECTION Identifier: HUD 3277.6000

Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society, 1957-1970 and 1976-1986


One of the oldest women's choirs in the nation and the oldest women's organization at Radcliffe, the Radcliffe Choral Society was founded in 1899. The records document the history, activities, and interests of the Society.


  • 1957-1970
  • 1976-1986


Conditions on use and access:

Some restrictions may apply, including 80 year restrictions on some folders; consult reference staff for details.


0.53 cubic feet (1 document boxes)

Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society document the history, interests, and activities of the Society. They include some documentation of the Radcliffe Freshman Chorus, an offshoot of the Choral Society.

Records include the Society's constitution, minutes, correspondence, and financial information, as well as tour and membership records and concert programs, posters and brochures. ALl of the material dates from the second half of the 20th century.

History of the Radcliffe Choral Society

The oldest women’s organization at Radcliffe and one of the oldest women’s choirs in the nation, the Radcliffe Choral Society was founded in 1899. The choir, open to all Radcliffe students, was established and directed by Marie Gallison at the urging of President Elizabeth Cary Agassiz. In 1912, the Society joined the Harvard University Choir for Harvard's first annual Christmas carol service, conducted by Archibald Davison. Davison began conducting the Society in 1915, and under his leadership the Society began performing regularly with the all-male Harvard Glee Club and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Other directors of the Society included G. Wallace Woodworth (1925-1958), Elliot Forbes (1958-1970), F. John Adams (1970-1974), Priscilla Chapman (1974-1979), Beverly J. Taylor (1979-1995) and Jameson Marvin (1995- ).

In 1955, the Radcliffe Freshman Chorus was established. Led by a conductor appointed by the Society conductor and open only to Radcliffe first years, the Chorus was intended to provide training for future choral members; Chorus members became provisional choral members in their sophomore year. A child of the Choral Society, and created at the annual discretion of the Choral Council, the Chorus operated independently under the management of the Society and with Choral funding. The Freshman Chorus was superseded in 1968 by the creation of the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, open to singers from all classes and graduate students but still intended to provide training in choral music for those with little experience.

In the fall of 1971, coinciding with the partial merger of Harvard University and Radcliffe Colleges, the Society evolved into the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, a mixed-voice and audition-based choral group, which also drew members from the Harvard Glee Club. Since not all Society members could join Collegium Musicum, the remaining members joined the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. In 1974, however, the Society was reinstated as a separate all-female chorus from the Collegium; the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus was dissolved. (A new Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus was established in 1979).

Today, the Radcliffe Choral Society, along with the Harvard Glee Club, the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum and the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus, form the Holden Choirs. The Society also now features an all-female a cappella group called the ‘Cliffe Notes.

Series and subseries

  1. General information and ephemera
  2. Records
  3. ___Constitution
  4. ___Minutes of Radcliffe Choral Society Council
  5. ___Correspondence
  6. ___Financial information
  7. ___Tour records
  8. ___Membership records
  9. ___Schedules

Acquisition Information

8031; Elliot Forbes, 1976 December 17

Related Material

Additional records of the Radcliffe Choral Society, including some earlier material, are held by the Schlesinger Library, along with a number of other collections relating to the Society. Consult HOLLIS, Harvard's online library system, for these and other related holdings held by Harvard libraries.

Sound recordings of the Radcliffe Choral Society are held by the Loeb Music Library and the Morse Media and Music collection at Lamont Library.

Photographs of the Radcliffe Choral Society can be found on-line through Harvard's Visual Information Access at The Harvard University Archives also holds:

  1. Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society, 1958-2017 (Accession 2017.585)
  2. Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society, 1958-2017 (Accession 2020.054)
  3. Papers of Archibald Thompson Davison, 1887-1879 (HUGFP 126.xx and HUGB D179.xx)
  4. Papers of George Wallace Woodworth, 193?-1969 (HUG 4879.xx)
  5. Papers of Elliot Forbes, 1958-1985 (HUGFP 23.xx)

General note

This document last updated 2020 July 06.

Processing Information

The Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society were first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. In October 2008, Juliana Kuipers re-processed the material. Re-processing included integrating and reorganizing the records, re-housing materials in appropriate containers, establishing a series and subseries hierarchy, and the creation of this inventory. All call numbers were simplified.

Radcliffe Choral Society. Records of the Radcliffe Choral Society : an inventory
Harvard University Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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