Now in its 71st year, 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 Chorale member, 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. She has introduced a new focus of American music to the group, as well as concerts with many diverse musicians from the community. She and accompanist Stephen Evans are beginning their 5th season with DWC.
Over the years, Chorale members have participated in festivals at Carnegie Hall, New York and the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. We celebrated the 50th anniversary of our favorite songstress, 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." Our 70th anniversary year was celebrated last spring and fall. Milestones included a vocal jazz workshop 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 a longs, great parties and receptions, dancing choristers, local girl scouts posing as elves singing and dancing with candy canes, hippy Santas singing and dancing to “Hair”, and standing ovations from larger audiences having a good time.
We are now proud members of the Performing Arts Society and Chorus America.
The Saga of DWC
by Lura D. Osgood
'Twas back in the year 1942,
Some ladies were wondering what to do -
The world was at war and they felt so helpless;
They had to be brave and wise and selfless.
Loving to sing, it occurred to them all,
They decided to concentrate on morale:
They'd raise it and money for good local causes
And have monthly luncheons in each other's houses!
With ideas now cooking on the front burner,
They hired Nancy Pauline Turner
To direct them as one of her several groups -
She moved right in and marshalled these troops.
They worked very hard and the membership grew,
Two concerts each year received rousing review.
But tragedy struck and an airplane crash
Took the life of Nancy Pauline in a flash.
So now what? Their plan had been working so well.
Then to the rescue came Nico D. Snel,
A musician of note in his native Holland.
Brought here by the Mormons, he answered the call and
That started a glorious nineteen years' session
Which ended when "Papa" left on his church mission.
Right about then things got a bit murky -
One conductor we tried was a genuine "turkey"!
Bob Parke stayed for five good years, 'ere he left
To play piano in a gay bar in S.F.
But Kerry Leyden appeared on the scene
And for 15 years all remained serene.
Next, Sharon Van Nest, then Angel Michaels directed -
For their own reasons, each one defected.
However, again we discovered a "doozey"
When Fate presented us with Suzie!
We warbled along, a few more years passed by,
The membership waned but our spirits were high;
When again, no director; were we fortunate? Very!
We found a gem in our member, Mary!
Our music style changed after all these moons—
We added a band and some jazzy tunes;
The membership’s up—we enjoy things so much
Since Mary has added “the Sorenson touch”.
And so we come to the present day -
Yet another war wages far away.
After all these years, Chorale spins on its axis
In spite of problems, deaths and taxes.
We still sing our hearts out on Monday night,
So we must be doing something right!
While a few join our group just for recreation,
Most realize it takes dedication;
Each does her job with love, you see -
Thus endeth the Saga of DWC.