Community Chorus of York

The Community Chorus originated as the Gospel Male Chorus in 1928 under the leadership of Mr. Emmanuel Washington and David Sexton. It has also been known as the Zion Boys Quartet, the Sextette and the Zion Male Chorus. In 1939 the all-male chorus decided to enlarge the group by adding female members and renaming the group the Community Chorus. The first meeting of that group was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Heirs, 470 Codorus Street where the following officers were elected; President, Mrs. Leah Hopewell, vice-president, Mrs. Pearl Keenheel Secretary, Mrs. Rosabell Colston. Treasurer, Mr. David Orr and Director, Emmanuel Washington. Rehearsals were held at the home of Rev. Frederick Lusan pastor of the Zion A.M.E. Church until it was decided that a larger meeting place would be necessary. Mr. Washington then secured the music room of the Crispus Attucks Community center for rehearsals. The members of the Chorus at that time included; Pianist, Miss Naomi Washington, sopranos, Ms. Bertha Nicks, Mrs. Ruby Ritter, Mrs. Rosa Bell Colston, Mrs. Alberta Washington, Mrs. Mabel Washington, Mrs. Rosanna Dowery, and Mrs. Mittie Grimes. Altos, Mrs. Johnnie Mae Scott, Mrs. Vera Holman Mrs. Pearl Keenheel, Mrs. Octavia Muldrow and Mrs. Rosa Jenkins. Tenors, Herbert Scott, Charles Washington, Willis Murray, Norman Washington, and David Sexton. Basses, Earl Ritter, Robert Scott and David Muldrow. Other members included; Mrs. Virgie Johnson, Mrs. Victoria Smith, Mrs. Emily Dagins, Mrs. Rebecca Freeland, Mrs. Rebecca Preston,  Mrs. Ruth Redman, Mrs. Florine Moore, Mrs. Mabel Grimes, Ms. Margaret Bailey Ms. Grace Bailey, Mrs. Johnny Carter, Joe Washington, Norman Washington and William Felton.

The Chorus became a featured attraction at many community events. In 1948 at a meeting of the York City Council the Chorus sang a rousing rendition of a song entitled “Jim Crow Must Go” in response to the closing of the community swimming pool at Farquhar Park. Rather than admitting Negroes the pool had been closed by the city for almost 3 years. 

Mr. Charles Washington, was born in Bamberg South Carolina the son of a Music teacher. His family was closely associated with music while in the South. After coming to York, Pa. he studied music under the late professor Dennis. He became a member of Zion A.M.E. Church where he joined the choir, Zion’s Quartet and the Gospel Male Choir. In later years he joined Bethlehem Baptist Church. He became director of the Community Chorus after his Brother Emmanuel, the previous director and a founder had died.

The Chorus became the first Black Chorus to appear Live on WSBA Radio on Sunday afternoons in the mid-forties. Mr. Washington became director and manager of the famous Jewel-tones Gospel Singers, a group of dedicated persons who came from various churches in York. The Jewel-tones traveled over many parts of the East coast appearing on Radio & Television programs. Through his work with various singing groups throughout York Mr. Washington taught many people to sing and play instruments even though they had no musical background. He was married to the lovely Alberta Washington and they had six children……Mr. Charles Washington another of York City’s African American Icons.


Author: jkirk

Founder and Chief Researcher for the York African American Historical Preservation Society