History

The Peninsula Chamber Singers history dates to spring, 1979, when the organization began life as The Peninsula Chamber Singers consisting of  twenty-five singers.  The first Artistic Director was Mel Kasen.  The initial performance was on Good Friday at the Sister Bay Baptist Church.  At Christmas time, the chorus performed The Messiah, complete with orchestra.   The spring concerts took on a lighter musical flair.   After Mel suddenly passed away, his friend, Ken Byler, an orchestra professor at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI directed the group in performing Bach’s Cantata II.

After Ken’s tenure, Joel Blahnik, a Gibraltar High School Band Director, led the group, George Larsen, who had been Choral Director at Sheboygan North High School, succeeded Mr. Blahnik..  When George retired in 1996, Don Richter became Artistic Director and served through the spring of 2006.   In fall 2007, Merle Colburn, who had retired as the Choral Director at Algoma High School and Gladys Austgen, a well-known Door County Choir Director, co-directed the concert.  Merle became Artistic Director beginning in the spring 2008.  Merle had sung with the chorus since 1998.

In December of 1998, approximately fifty Peninsula Chamber Singers traveled to Europe to present three concerts.  They performed in Oberammergau in the district of Bavaria, Germany where the Passion Play is presented every ten years by about 2000 local residents.  They also performed in Bad Reichenhall just across the border from Salzburg, Austria and in a small village named Stammersdorf near Vienna, Austria.

In April 2001, twenty-five singers joined a chorus from across the United States to sing in Carnegie Hall under the direction of famed composer Dr. John Leavitt.  Dr. Leavitt later came to Door County to direct The Peninsula Chamber Singers for a spring, 2001 concert.  Several chorus members again sang in a large chorus under the direction of Dr. Leavitt in the spring of 2010.

The first accompanist for the Peninsula Chamber Singers was Ruth Neumann.   Others who have served were Grace Okkerse, Martha Babel, Ann Ellen Boettcher, Kathryn Colburn, Gerri Friedberg, Katy Swender, David Beck, and the current accompanist, Janet Anderson.

Over the years, the chorus has grown in size and in its ability to perform a wide variety of music.  Strength has come from improved skills in reading and interpreting music.

There have been many changes in singer composition, directors, accompanists, and venues during the history of the chorus.  Recently the name of the chorus was changed to The Peninsula Singers to better portray the group’s size and range of music performed.  The unchanged aspect of the chorus’ history has been the dedication of its singers, artistic directors, accompanists, and supportive audiences.