Over its 80-year history, the Westminster Choir has grown into one of the leading musical establishments anywhere in the United States. Renowned American choral conductor John Finley Williamson founded the choir in 1920 for the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Dayton, OH. By 1929, Williamson had already built the first group of untrained voices into a professional ensemble of national and international fame; the choir affiliated itself in that year with Ithaca College in New York. In 1932, the choir moved to Princeton, NJ, where it had easy access to the orchestras of New York and Philadelphia, and its home has been there since. Westminster Choir College (an academic unit of Rider University in Princeton) began as an outgrowth of the choir's activities. Fully seven choral ensembles now make up the performing apparatus of the college: the Westminster Chapel Choir (employing the college's freshman class), the Westminster Schola Cantorum (sophomores), the 200-voice Westminster Symphony Choir, the more select 40-voice Westminster Choir, the chamber-sized Westminster Singers, a Bell Choir, and the Jubilee Singers. The Symphony Choir and the Westminster Choir present the face of the college to the world in tours and recordings.
Both of these most visible Westminster Choirs have left an astounding trail of musical achievements. The Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski was the first major orchestra to incorporate the Westminster Choir into its performances. Since that time, the list of its collaborations includes nearly every major conductor in the world, from Claudio Abbado to Bruno Walter, from Pierre Boulez to Arturo Toscanini, from Leonard Bernstein to Sergey Rachmaninov; the choir has performed over 300 times in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra alone. The Westminster Choir has brought its choral art on tour around the world and has recorded on 12 labels. Since the 1977 inception of the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the Westminster Choir has been its chorus-in-residence; it also served as chorus-in-residence for the Festival dei due mondi in Spoleto, Italy, for some 23 years. Since 1971, the Westminster Choir has performed under the baton of its artistic director Joseph Flummerfelt, who studied with Nadia Boulanger, Elaine Brown, and Julius Herford. The choir's first Grammy nomination was in 1976, for a recording of Sergey Prokofiev's Alexander Nevski. A later national honor came in 2002, when the Westminster Choir was asked to perform Verdi's Messa da Requiem in a televised memorial for the events of September 11th.