In 1968, John Harms, summer organist and choir director at St. Mary's by-the-Sea in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island in Maine, brought a few professional singers from New York for a weekend to join a group of singers from the Island in a performance of Rossini's Stabat Mater, with Allen Sever accompanying at the organ. The idea proved popular enough to repeat annually, and it quickly became a tradition. In 1982, following Harms's retirement and a one-year stint as director by Wilson Gault, George Emlen took over the group. He soon expanded the Chorale's scope and vision by performing with an orchestra, allowing audiences to hear these masterworks in all their instrumental as well as vocal splendor. Emlen also introduced the idea of giving concerts both at St. Mary's and at St. Saviour's in Bar Harbor. Upon George Emlen's retirement in 1999, the Chorale incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and formed a Board of Directors, appointing David Schildkret as Music Director. He has continued the tradition of presenting major works and has expanded the collaborations with musicians from the Bangor Symphony to other ensembles, including members of the Brass Week faculty, the Bar Harbor Festival, and soloists from the region. Students from Mount Desert Island High School and the College of the Atlantic regularly sing with the choir as Al and Eva Meyer Scholars. Under Schildkret's leadership, the Chorale's activities have expanded to include annual open readings of masterworks, guest artist recitals, and workshops. The Mount Desert Summer Chorale is a remarkable and perhaps unique cultural institution: while many choruses disband for the summer, our comes to life the last week of June. In six weeks, rehearsing once or twice a week, the Chorale develops into a cohesive artistic whole. Chorale members are both year-round and summer residents who sing in other choruses during the winter and bring a wealth of choral experience with them. In a community with a rich musical life, especially in the summer, the Chorale holds a very special place.
See a full list of our past performances here.