The Community Renewal Chorus (CRC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and celebrating diversity, equality, peace, and justice through music.

HarrietZiegenhalsFounded in 1970 by Harriet Ziegenhals, CRC served until 2003 as musical ambassadors of the Community Renewal Society, personifying its struggle against racism and injustice, and for over four decades has been bringing communities together to celebrate the music of different cultures while expressing a message of harmony through diversity.

Active in Chicago’s musical life for over 45 years, the Chorus has performed over 600 concerts at public functions, on television, in churches and concert halls throughout the region and across the nation, and has been welcomed enthusiastically in over 15 foreign countries.  Since 1976, eight international “Friendship Tours” have been taken to Romania, Poland, the former USSR, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Scandinavia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Ireland.

The chorus forms a singing community – their membership personifies their commitment to diversity and inclusion by bringing together people of various races, ethnicities, faith perspectives, socio-economic backgrounds, political affiliations, ages, and sexual orientations.

Its repertoire encompasses music from many traditions and cultures, including major classical works, folk songs from around the world, contemporary and tradition hymns, Broadway show tunes, spirituals and gospel, and songs that reflect hope for the city and for the world.

As one of the few community musical groups in the United States whose diversity truly reflects the face of urban America, the Chorus believes music has the power to inspire, educate, celebrate, forewarn, and challenge, and is a living witness that people can break through the walls that separate human beings from each other and forms a community where the contributions, capacities, gifts and talents of all are appreciated, affirmed and celebrated.

Historical banner with images of chorus members from the past


1973   Performed for Mayor Richard Daley’s United Nations Committee at City Hall Chambers

1975   Performed for Romanian Government officials – Romanian Rug Exhibit at the Art Institute

1976   Benefit Concert with Marian Anderson at Orchestra Hall for Hospital and Health Center; Friendship Tour to Romania and Poland

1978   Friendship Tour to the Soviet Union and Poland

1979   Performed for Gov. James Thompson’s inaugural reception in Springfield

1983   Friendship Tour to Germany, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia

1984   Performed 8 concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for their Youth Concert Series at Orchestra Hall (AGC)

1986   Habitat for Humanity Service with Jimmy Carter; Friendship Tour to Hong Christmas Kong, China and Japan; Mayor Harold Washington’s dinner reception honoring the Mayor of Shenyang, China at the Art Institute (AGC)

1987   Performed for public memorial service in honoring Mayor Harold Washington in Daley Plaza

1988   Made videocassette of Olympic Theme Song commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company in consultation with the XV Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee; Appeared on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw–NBC Network News, Christmas Edition

1989   Hour-long Christmas special shown coast to coast, and in Canada and Mexico on WGN
Performed at the New Symphony Center for Marshall Field’s Day of Music

1990   Friendship Tour to Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway

1996   Performance commemorating the opening of the new McCormick Place Expansion

1997   Friendship Tour to East Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic

1998   Performance for Community Response Dining with Friends AIDS Benefit; Christmas Performance at Chicago Botanic Garden

1999   Performance for Peoples Museum Benefit Dinner with Dr. Arun Gandhi; AGC performed at Elmhurst College Convocation honoring Marion Wright Edelman, founder of Children’s Defense Fund

2000   Friendship Tour to Costa Rica and Mexico

2001   Performed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr commemoration service, Chicago Historical Society.

2002   Special Christmas Taping for Different Drummers Channel 2 TV

2003   Became a 501 (c) (3)  independent not-for-profit organization incorporated by the State of Illinois

2004   Performed 35th Annual Benefit Concert at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Millennium Park;
Joined together with other artists from Chicago for a World Aids day Concert.

2007   Participated in Canti Classics & The DuSable Museum of African-American History concert “A Celebration of Freedom Songs” featuring “Simon, Sykes & Sims”

2009   Formed the Northside All God’s Children Neighborhood Chorus to build diversity in AGC and to increase access to music education for younger children in Chicago

2010   Celebrated 40th Anniversary together with Founder Harriet Ziegenhals and CRC and AGC alumni

2011   Friendship Tour to Ireland

2014   Gerome Bell stepped down after 20 faithful years as Director, and CRC welcomed Brian Bloye as Interim Director & Jenne Lennon as Assistant Director.

2015   Performed at the Community Renewal Society Music For The Movement:  A Celebration of Freedom and Equality kick off celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Chicago Freedom Movement; Provided backup vocals for Jess Godwin in a video that premiered at “Sleep Out for Homeless Youth”