Rainier Chorale was founded in the fall of 1982 when Marilee Plaks and Ken Duley formed a community chorus to perform Handel’s Messiah with Rainier Symphony. The Chorale became an independent organization in 1983, incorporating with the state and receiving tax-exempt status in October of 1983. The first performance under the direction of Mrs. Plaks, Haydn’s The Creation, was presented on May 1, 1983 at Kentwood High School. The following year, Mendelssohn’s Elijah was presented.
In July of 1986 Patricia Butler was hired as Artistic Director. Under Pat’s direction, the Chorale performed musical selections ranging from works by Beethoven, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart, to contemporary music by Gershwin and other American composers. The group performed in many venues, including the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery and the Nippon Kan Theatre in Seattle’s International District.
In May of 1990 Cindy Busler was hired as Artistic Director after serving as Associate Conductor. Cindy introduced the group to the works of Washington women composers. Works by well-established composers and other 20th Century composers were performed as well. Under Cindy’s direction the Chorale participated in the Good Will Games Welcoming Ceremonies; the dedication of the new Highline Performing Arts Center with a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana as guests of Choral Sounds Northwest; and, a highlight for the Chorale, an appearance at Carnegie Hall for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem with other community choruses from across the United States.
In July of 1996 Ron Bayer was hired as Artistic Director. Under Ron’s direction the Chorale has expanded its repertoire with works of many old masters as well as up-and-coming 20th Century composers, including a revisit to Carmina Burana. Our concert season now begins with a Holiday concert of both serious and more light-hearted works, continues with a Masterworks concert in March or April, and ends with a favorite of our public, an annual Pops concert in June.
In April of 2004 the Chorale celebrated its 20th anniversary with a big gala, a dinner party with dancing at Emerald Downs in Auburn. It was so much fun that the party was repeated the following year, except an auction was included. That first auction proved so successful that an annual auction was established as the Chorale’s primary fundraiser. In 2006 the ante was upped a bit and an annual $1,000 scholarship was announced, to be paid for from the proceeds of the auction; the scholarship is awarded annually to a high school senior who is planning to major or minor in vocal or choral music. Also in 2006, the auction was moved to the Doubletree Inn at Southcenter, as the space at Emerald Downs proved insufficient.
In June of 2007 the Chorale had an opportunity to do something terrific for the community and establish a group of youth choirs. Leora Schwitters agreed to be the organizer and Artistic Director, and a group of parents who were thrilled to have their children participate agreed to roll up their sleeves and help with the work. In order to keep both groups under one roof, an umbrella organization was created, Rainier Choral Arts. September of 2007 marked the beginning of Rainier Youth Choirs; the community has enthusiastically embraced them, and they in turn enhance the commuinity by providing the children with music education, including the study of music theory. Their website is here.