A brief introduction to BCCO

BCCO was founded almost 60 years ago as a community chorus singing symphonic choral repertoire. Its founding principles are still core to the chorus today: anybody can sing (no auditions), we perform with a live orchestra, and we give free concerts. Our members have a wide range of experience, from those who have been in choral groups all their lives and take voice lessons to those who have always wanted to try to sing again since they were told in sixth grade chorus to sit at the back of the room and do math homework instead of open their mouths. Our music director, Ming Luke, is committed to the idea that everybody can sing. We aspire to prepare works to a high standard, something that he believes we can achieve if we all try together.

Key dates

BCCO rehearses on Monday nights from 7-9:30 pm at St John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave, Berkeley 94705. Key dates for the coming semester are:

  • Monday rehearsals Sept 9 – Dec 16
  • Sunday, Dec 29 chorus rehearsal (with piano)
  • Monday, Dec 30 full rehearsal with orchestra and soloists at venue TBD
  • Thursday, Jan 2, 2025 full rehearsal at Hertz Hall on the Cal campus
  • Friday-Sunday, Jan 3-5, 2025 concerts at Hertz Hall
  • in addition, we plan to schedule two Saturday “all-day” rehearsals: 9-11 am – lunch break – 1-3 pm.


We will be preparing three works this fall:

  • Beethoven, Choral Fantasy
  • Fauré, Requiem
  • Haydn, Missa in tempore belli (No. 10 in C)


Singers pay tuition and can optionally order vocal scores from BCCO. Tuition is $230 per semester. Scores for this semester total $60. Scores are distributed at the September rehearsals (though we are arranging for pickup locations(s) in Berkeley in July for those who want an early start.)


Singers must attend 50% of rehearsals to be eligible to re-register for the following semester. If a singer misses more than 4 Monday rehearsals per semester, then their seat on the concert stage is not assured: they must speak to their section leaders about their preparation and optionally “sing for Ming” to demonstrate readiness.

Assistant Conductor

Opportunities for classical music conductors to gain experience on the podium are hard to come by. It’s difficult to get this experience without a job, and impossible to get such a job without experience! Since his arrival at BCCO 12 years ago, Ming instituted a conductor mentoring program, and BCCO has funded an assitant conductor position. Our current assistant, Samantha Burgess, is in her last year of a 3-year cycle with us. Sam often leads warmups, sectionals, and some portions of rehearsals and concerts.

Sectionals and practice materials

We offer free audio practice tracks and videos on our website (plus phyical CDs) to members to help in learning the music. We also schedule Sunday afternoon sectionals through the semester – usually two voice sections per session. These are optional but recommended.

Chorus size

We typically place 140-160 singers on the concert stage. Because of demand, the chorus has grown to 50% more than that number. Consequently, singers rotate during a 3-day concert weekend, with everybody singing two concerts on average.

Summer tour

June 15-24, 2025, BCCO will go on a concert tour in France. We will sing the Fauré Requiem and the Saint-Saens Requiem (from our spring 2025 repertoire.) The tour is funded entirely by the traveling singers (not the chorus budget.) Spouses/guests are welcome to join us. Cost is ~$6,000 per person including hotels and airfare. Signups will be conducted in September; we expect to enlist 80-100 travelers.


Presently, masking is optional at our rehearsals and concerts. We monitor Covid levels in the Bay Area – particularly via wastewater data – to estimate the amount of Covid in our community. Our goal is to prevent our events from being the source of spread to others, as Long Covid remains a concern even while mortality an hospitalization have become rare. If Covid levels rise above a threshold, we could re-impose a masking requirement. Meanwhile, we open all the windows in the sanctuary where we rehearse, so bring a sweater!

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