History of the
Wichita Chamber Chorale
In the early months of 1978, the Wichita Chamber Chorale was founded by Philip Coleman, Michael Pohlenz, Nolen Pridemore and Howard Webb. These four friends had studied music education together and been members of the Singing Quakers at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Pohlenz and his friends envisioned an auditioned community choir for adult singers in South Central Kansas. Later that spring that dream would come true when the Wichita Chamber Chorale (WCC) presented their premiere concert with an ensemble of 30 of the region’s best singers. On April 23, 1978, Dr. Pohlenz conducted and Dr. John Leavitt accompanied the Chorale before a large and appreciative audience at East Heights United Methodist Church.
In addition to a regular schedule of concert performances and educational events, the Chorale achieved special recognition in 1988 and 1989, with performances at conventions held by the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA), the Southwest Region of the American Choral Directors Association (SWACDA), and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). WCC has also toured throughout Kansas and performed with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Music Theatre of Wichita, and under Robert Shaw with the choirs and orchestra of Wichita State University.
In March of 1992, WCC performed their first international concert with the State Academic Concert Orchestras of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Continuing their international tour in May of 1996, WCC performed for the Joan of Arc Festival in Orleans, France - one of Wichita's sister cities. The following year, WCC hosted the Chorale Francis Poulenc of Orleans in an Exchange Concert here in Wichita.
Wichita Chamber Chorale performed with the WSU Choirs and Orchestra in 2006, 2008, and 2009 accompanied by an orchestra of players from both WSU and the Wichita Symphony. In June 2009, WCC performed in a concert for the Region VI Convention of the American Guild of Organists, accompanied by David Josefiak. WCC also performed at the July 2009 Kansas Choral Directors Association (KCDA) conference in Topeka, Kansas.
WCC celebrated its 35th Anniversary in April of 2013 with a performance, directed by Dr. Mark Bartel, of Bach's Magnificat and Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb, along with American classics by Randall Thompson, Eric Whitacre, and Steven Stucky. Over fifty Alumni Singers joined the Chorale for several selections, conducted by Founding Director, Dr. Michael Pohlenz. Dr. Pohlenz was also given the honorary title of "Music Director and Conductor Emeritus" at the Anniversary Concert.
In 2015, Dr. Bartel developed the Kansas Choral Composition Prize which fosters original choral music by composers with strong ties to Kansas. This initiative was founded by the Wichita Chamber Chorale and was co-sponsored by Senseney Music, Inc. Two prizes (2015 & 2018) have been awarded thus far.
In the fall of 2017, WCC gave two special performances of J.S. Bach's "A Mighty Fortress", Cantata 80 - Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott. These were in celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and sponsored by Holy Cross Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church, both of Wichita.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus, also referred to as the coronavirus, or COVID-19, led to a worldwide crisis beginning in 2020. After more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths in only a few months' time, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The Chorale immediately halted preparations for their spring concert scheduled for later that month. There were no concerts in all of 2020 and 2021 due to the seriousness of the highly contagious air-borne illness. Many choral organizations across the world started to develop new ways to sing together. The WCC Board and new Artistic Director Dr Rayvon Moore, produced a 3-part virtual video concert. All performers sent audio and visual recordings of themselves from the protection of their own homes, which were then mixed by a sound and visual engineer. The concert was entitled "Draw Us Near" and was posted on the YouTube website in the spring/summer of 2021. Finally in April 2022, the Chorale performed a live concert entitled "Unsung HERoes" celebrating the voice of female composers. Choral singing was back, though many were still wearing respiratory masks.
Before the conclusion of this history section, mention must be given to the annual event, "Cabaret", which has been performed by Chorale singers and guest instrumentalists since the early years of the organization. This performance is a musical fundraiser of Broadway and pop music standards, complete with delicious food and drink provided for the audience members. It was held for many years at Prairie Pines and hosted by owner Bob Scott, a past Chorale singer, board member and President. It recently has been performed at Terradyne Country Club and has added a raffle drawing with outstanding donations from area businesses. Cabaret continues to be an event both audience members and singers greatly enjoy. In 2023 Steve and Gretchen Bixler were honored for their many years of leadership within the Chorale and especially in producing the Cabaret show.
Through the strength of its singers, the vision and leadership of its artistic directors and board members, and the support of its listening audience, the citizens of Wichita and surrounding communities will continue to enjoy the work of the Wichita Chamber Chorale for many years to come.
Past Wichita Chamber Chorale Directors
Dr. Mariana Farah
Dr. Robert Glasmann
2005 - 2010
Dr. Mark Bartel
2010 - 2019
Dr. Michael Pohlenz
1978 - 2003
Wichita Chamber Chorale Guest Conductors
Dr Mariana Farah, 2019
Dr. Michael Pohlenz, 2018
Dr. John Buehler, 2005
Dr. Harrison Boughton, 2004
Dr. Jerry McCoy, 2004
Dr. Marvin Latimer, 2003