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Founder/conductor Don Dowling formed the Coastal Chorale in the spring of 2001. Following a March organizational meeting, April and May were spent auditioning approximately 75 people from throughout Baldwin County. Thirty-two were accepted, and the first rehearsal was held June 4, 2001. This new, exciting organization, accompanied by Kayla Dowling, held its premiere performance the first weekend of August 2001, playing to three enthusiastic, sold-out crowds. The Chorale electrified the 700 audience members with familiar favorites, which has become the trademark of this talented group of musicians. The group originally intended to perform just that one summer show, but due to the tremendous response from Baldwin County communities and the media, the membership enthusiastically and unanimously voted to become a bona fide musical organization. More auditions were held, and 38 members began rehearsing for the premiere Christmas Show that drew 1,000 excited patrons. Next, the Chorale took their previous Summer Show “on the road” with the Snowbird Serenade in Gulf Shores, drawing more than 1,300 local residents and snowbirds that first year. Ten years later, the numbers reflect the tremendous growth in the organization, with approximately 60 singers and more than 6,000 audience members annually. In the fall of 2005, a manager, Lee Timberlake, was hired to assist with administrative needs and to increase public awareness of Chorale happenings.
Members include talented vocal musicians from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to Bay Minette and from the Eastern Shore to Lillian, plus Mobile and Pensacola. The group has also had auditionees from as far away as Atmore. The Coastal Chorale is truly an organization for the area. The Coastal Chorale concept was formed with two main goals in mind. The first is to provide Baldwin County’s talented vocalists with a musical challenge as they join with other singers of like ability. Giving life to this goal, the Chorale consists of skilled musicians who desire the excitement of group achievement. The second goal—to excite audiences through the great sounds of familiar songs from the past and present—is apparent in the eclectic musical format that features everything from Bach to Broadway and spirituals to pop. Three ideals correlate with these goals: to perform the finest in choral literature of all styles, to perform at the highest possible level of excellence, and to produce a thrilling show of top-notch entertainment value for residents of Baldwin County and beyond.
The first show of the performance year is the Christmas Show, presented in mid-November. Next is the Snowbird Serenade—an encore presentation of the previous summer’s show—held in Gulf Shores the last weekend of February. The fun-filled finish to the season is the annual Summer Show the first weekend in August. A board was established to implement a solid foundation, to deal with the development and financial matters of the organization, and to ensure the group’s longevity. Donations to The Choral Society, the financial arm of the group, will guarantee that “top quality” remains a focus of the Coastal Chorale.
After the 2009 Snowbird Serenade, Don and Kayla Dowling decided to resign and pursue other interests. The community will forever be grateful to Don and Kayla for introducing such a wonderful and entertaining group to the area. At the same time, the Board of Directors decided to take a year sabbatical to reorganize and evaluate a new direction for the chorale. After much discussion and evaluation, the board made a commitment to move forward, hire a new director and pianist, and continue the tradition of excellence that the Chorale has provided over the years. The Board believes that there continues to be tremendous support from the communities in which we sing. Mitchell Sims served as the conductor from 2010 through the 2012 Snowbird Serenade after which he took a new job as director of the Baldwin County EMA. In the Spring of 2013, the Board appointed Laura Mixon as the new Artistic Director & Conductor of the Coastal Chorale. Jonathan Wallace continues to be the accompanist and pianist for the Chorale.
We are very excited about the future of the Chorale as we resume our musical programs for the pleasure and enrichment of the community, therefore, continuing our “Tradition of Excellence.” Thank you for your continued support!