The Story of the Davis Community Chorale

The Davis Community Chorale was founded in 1978 as the Davis Chorale, a community chorus, providing an opportunity for adults to sing sacred and secular classical choral literature.  The Founding Director was Rachel Kessler.  The Chorale performed under the auspices of Valley Artists Productions (VAP), started by Donald Kessler. The VAP also sponsored the Davis Brass Ensemble and, since 1995, the Davis Children’s Chorale.  Originally VAP produced a subscription series of up to nine concerts per annum in which various local groups and artists were featured.

Bach’s B-Minor Mass, complete with a full orchestra and soloists, was the first work the Chorale performed in public under the direction of Richard Brunelle in the Veterans Memorial Center in 1979.  Typically, the Chorale would rehearse and perform at the Davis Community Church (DCC). Besides one or two larger programs each year, Vespers, an hour-long sacred interfaith concert performed Sunday afternoons at DCC, was among the mainstay of programming.  The Choir also took concerts on tour to European destinations like the British Isles, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Italy.

While Rachel Kessler oversaw the programming and rehearsed the choir, initially she typically hired outside conductors for larger concerts, including well-known names like Roger Wagner, John Rutter, Mel Olsen, Andrew Carter, Jean Berger, and Kern Holoman.  Eventually, Rachel Kessler assumed the conducting responsibilities entirely.  She retired in June 2010 with a repeat performance of the B-Minor Mass in memory of Richard Brunelle, who had passed away a year prior, and in honor of her 32 years of Chorale leadership.  This performance, featuring a full orchestra, hired soloists and an augmented choir of almost 80 voices, was conducted by Kern Holoman in Jackson Hall at the UC Davis Mondavi Center on June 6, 2010.

Alison Skinner succeeded Rachel Kessler.  Under her direction, the membership has grown to about 60 singers, and in 2012 the Chorale separated from VAP and became an independent, registered non-profit organization.  Now larger concerts are often presented at Brunelle Hall.  In the fall of 2014, the Chorale performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Christian Baldini in Sacramento. Skinner also formed a small ensemble of singers who meet in addition to regular choir rehearsals. The ensemble learns extra music, which they perform by invitation at different venues in our community and surrounding region. Ellen Schinner Deffner served as the Chorale’s accompanist for many years, from 1997 to her death in 2019. LuAnn Higgs is currently the Chorale’s accompanist.