From 1942 to the Present
The Diablo Women's Chorale was established in the summer of 1942 with the two-fold purpose of aiding the war effort and raising morale, presenting its first public concert on March 7, 1943. Under the name of Diablo Valley Choral, it was conducted by the eminent Scottish musician, Nancy Pauline Turner, who also directed six other similar groups throughout the Northern California Bay Area.
Following her untimely death in a plane crash into the San Francisco Bay eleven years later, the leadership of the Choral was assumed by Nico D. Snel, the ladies' beloved "Papa." A highly respected violinist, pianist, teacher and director, he conducted the organization for 24 years, during which time the group's name was changed to the Diablo Women's Choral. When Mr. Snel returned to Holland on a church mission, Bob Parke of San Francisco became the director. Five years later, Mr. Parke left to pursue a career in nightclubs and musical theater.
For the next 15 years, Kerry Leyden of Concord, a choral director, church musician, accompanist and singer, led the group. Soon after he took over, the final "e" was added to the name, making it the Diablo Women's Chorale. He left the group to devote more time to his teaching duties at the Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek.
Sharon Rae Van Nest, a teacher, a professional singer and pianist became the conductor in the Fall of 1996, staying just one year before departing the area to become Director of Choral Activities at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.
Our next director, Angel Michaels, a well-known musician, voice teacher and conductor, also had to leave after one year when her husband was transferred out of the area.
In 1998 the Chorale welcomed Susan A. Peterson of Fairfield to the podium. She brought a wealth of musical background to the group. Susan served as director for 12 years until December 2010.
In January 2011 Mary Sorenson of Walnut Creek was welcomed as our new director. Mary was a member of the Chorale from 1999 through 2010 and brought with her an extensive background in music, singing, teaching and directing treble choirs. She introduced a new focus of American music to the group, especially jazz, as well as concerts with many diverse musicians from the community. Under her leadership, the chorus membership tripled and audience attendance doubled, and the chorus began performing two concerts each season instead of one. Mary announced in April of 2015 that she would pursue other musical projects in the fall, and she and accompanist Stephen Evans performed their last concert together with DWC on May 16th, 2015. Sorenson, known for her concert theme development, entitled it: "Get Happy".
In the fall of 2015 Steve Mullins joined the Chorale as director, bringing with him Carolyn Wolf as accompanist. Several successful concerts were performed, including ROYAL which featured a live band, songs of "High Flight" and music from the King of Pop and the Queen of Soul.
Lisa Forkish took the position of music director in the spring of 2017. An Oakland-based vocalist, composer, arranger, and music educator, Forkish is also one of the founders of the Women’s A Cappella Association (WACA), a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating women in a cappella.
Over the years, Chorale members have participated in festivals at Carnegie Hall, New York and the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. DWC celebrated the 50th anniversary of President Emeritus Lura Osgood by commissioning a piece by Rollo Dilworth, who set a number of Lura's haikus to music to create "Reflections on the Seasons." Milestones on our 70th anniversary in 2013 and after included several vocal jazz workshops with the eminent choral composer, arranger and clinician Kirby Shaw, more emphasis on jazz and modern American music, collaborations with many fine local musicians, more audience sing alongs, great parties and receptions, choristers passionately "mugging" to the Latin strains of "Hot Chocolate", girl scout elves in a chorus line, hippy Santas singing a medley from “Hair”, and Lollipop Guild Munchkins loudly interrupting a concert. Singers worked hard to memorize music and connect with their listeners, and standing ovations from larger audiences having a good time have become the new standard for the group.
We are a proud member of Chorus America.