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St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON® Chorus at 560 Trinity Building in University City, Missouri

IN UNISON Chorus History

Created in 1994, The St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus began as a one-time effort for the performance of Hannibal Peterson’s African Portraits. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response, the Chorus has become a permanent part of the SLSO’s artistic family. The Chorus performs as part of the SLSO’s season in the annual Lift Every Voice: Black History Month Celebration, as well as in Gospel Christmas and community concerts in various locations around the area.

The Chorus’ annual holiday concert, “A Gospel Christmas,” has become a St. Louis holiday tradition. The SLSO and chorus have performed to packed houses with renowned singers such as Take 6, Blind Boys of Alabama, and Oleta Adams.

The Black History Month celebration "Lift Every Voice," features works by African-American composers, arrangers and performers. In February 2017, trumpter Byron Stripling wowed the audience at Powell Hall with his virtuosity and wit. The chorus and SLSO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Martin Luther King "I Have a Dream" speech in February 2013 with a performance of Samuel Barber's Adagio for strings, with narration of the speech provided by Wintley Phipps. In February 2012,  the SLSO and Chorus welcomed St. Louis' own, Jenifer Lewis, to the Powell Hall stage. 

The 2016 spring Community Concert was held at First Baptist Church of Chesterfield and guest conducted by Jason Ferdinand, conductor of the famed chorus, Aeolians of Oakwood University. The Chorus has hosted well-known arrangers and composers such as Rollo Dilworth, André Thomas, Moses Hogan, Brazeal Dennard and Jeffery Ames in this choral workshop/concert setting. There is no fee to attend this concert, but a free-will offering is accepted for the chorus' scholarship fund which supports African-American students from the St. Louis community who wish to pursue a music-related college degree.

To celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the chorus, the SLSO commissioned a composition from composer Rollo Dilworth. This work, Freedom’s Plow, was performed on the Choral Spectacular! subscription concert in October 2009. The IN UNISON Chorus performed Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus on the same concert.

 The Chorus has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Pops and subscription concerts, Summerfest (Classics in the Loop), and made its Carnegie Hall debut in 1998. Members of the chorus sang at Lincoln Center in May 2013, for the debut of Mark Hayes' Requiem and Gettysburg Address.

The IN UNISON Chorus enjoys a close and special relationship with the IN UNISON Church Program of the SLSO and with the network of IN UNISON churches and coordinators. The St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON program, which began with five churches in 1992, quickly established itself as the model for the SLSO's community programs. Orchestra musicians visit member churches offering music during services, special event concerts and educational events. IN UNISON program church members are eligible for discounted Symphony concerts, tuition discounts to area music camps and music scholarships for college students majoring in music and other benefits. Robert Ray

Robert Ray, founding director, 1995-2010

Dr. Robert J. Ray, composer, conductor, and clinician, is Professor of Music and conductor of the University of Missouri-St. Louis Community Chorus. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and in May 2003, received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Vincennes University.

As a pianist, he has performed as a soloist with the Seoul Philharmonic, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony and others. As accompanist, he was privileged to have worked with the outstanding and legendary singers Robert McFerrin and Dr. William Warfield.

Ray is constantly in demand as a clinician and conductor. In St. Louis, he annually conducts the St. Louis Symphony, along with the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus in a special St. Louis-style Gospel Christmas and Black History Month concert. As a clinician he travels the world giving lectures, workshops, and presentations on African American music styles. In the summer of 2000, Ray trained and toured with the Europa Cantat European Youth Choirs and performed concerts in France, Spain, Belgium, and the World Exposition in Germany. In 2005, he conducted a Europa Cantat workshop in Barcelona, Spain with over 300 singers. In April 2007, he was invited by A Coeur Joie Alsace in France to conduct three concerts featuring his Gospel Mass. In the fall of 2009 he returned to Italy to conduct workshops on spirituals and gospels.

Ray’s compositions are known nationally and internationally. The Gospel Mass, Gospel Magnificat, and He Never Failed Me Yet are regularly performed in Europe, Asia, South Africa, and South America. He has traveled extensively throughout the world conducting his music. In April 2002, Ray returned again to Carnegie Hall as guest conductor to perform his Gospel Mass with chorus and orchestra. In February 2008, his Gospel Mass was performed with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus.

He and his wife Sylvia have one daughter, Nia, and currently reside in St. Louis.

After 15 seasons of being the founder and sole director of the St. Louis Symphony IN UNISON Chorus, Dr. Robert Ray announced his retirement in January 2010.