The original Paradise Community Chorus was formed in the fall of 1956, William R. Taylor director. According to the March 15, 1957 edition of the Paradise Post, they presented a "fine rendition of the Christmas portion of Handel's 'Messiah' in December and planned to present the Easter music from the oratorio before Easter." This spring concert was cancelled because they did not have enough tenors.
From this beginning, the Paradise Community Choral Group was formed October, 1959, conducted under the Paradise High School Adult Education program. The first concert was a Christmas concert in 1959. The concert featured two guest artists: Donna Erickson, violinist, and Lucy McCalman, pianist, establishing a tradition of involving local musicians that continues today. Leroy S. Fager was the director, and Ruth C. Brooks was the accompanist. There were 55 members.
The current Paradise Community Chorus was founded as the Auditorium Chorus in 1993 to help promote the new Paradise Auditorium (which has grown into the Paradise Performing Arts Center) as well as to provide a vocal forum for local residents. It was formed by E. David Neel and Jim Ferguson, Auditorium Committee member.
David Neel was the director, Joe Zabelski was the accompanist. In Spring 1994 Georgene Neel took over as accompanist.
The first Auditorium Chorus program listed Margi Kvidahl and Ria Outhuyse as members of this original chorus, and they continue to sing with the chorus today. By December of 1994, when this photograph was taken, current members Ruth Miller and Carol Renn had joined.
A True Community Chorus By June of 1996, the chorus had outgrown the rather restricted role of Auditorium Chorus and became a true community chorus. By the time the Neels left, current members Geneva Goeckner, Anna Marsh, Elaine Rubke, Taimi Saxberg, Karen Romig, John Kleiser were also part of the chorus.
In the spring of 1998 the chorus lost both its director and accompanist when David and Georgene Neel moved to Arizona. Jerry Burkey became the new director that fall, and his wife Joy Burkey became the accompanist.
Jerry Burkey established the practice of two major concerts per year, Spring and Christmas, that the chorus still follows today.
The Chorus today Our current director, Sam Gronseth, took over as director in Spring 2003 with Laurie Knifong as the accompanist. The current accompanist, Pat Kelley joined us in Spring 2008. In 2004 Paradise Community Chorus was granted non-profit status.
The Paradise Community Chorus continues to provide musical enrichment for the Paradise community and surrounding areas, an avenue for individual and group musical expression, education and outreach, and an opportunity for social and emotional growth and support.
By Louise Casey
Compiled from newspaper articles, concert materials and photographs archived by Anna Marsh, Paradise Community Chorus historian.