The Robert Dale Chorale, one of Northeast Pennsylvania’s premier musical organizations, was founded in 1978 by Robert Dale Herrema. For the past forty-two years, the last six under its new name of Arcadia Chorale, the Chorale has served the region with choral performances of the highest quality. The Chorale has also been associated with two long-standing local traditions: the annual Messiah Sing-Along and the annual NEPA Bach Festival.
The Messiah Sing-Along was begun in 1984 as a joint project between the Chorale and WVIA-FM. The public was invited to join with the Chorale and a professional orchestra to perform Handel’s Messiah, one of the great masterworks of choral music. Soloists from the Chorale sang the solo movements, and the audience sang along with Handel’s great choruses. WVIA-FM recorded the performance and broadcast it on Christmas Eve. The entire event proved so popular that the Chorale and WVIA-FM have teamed up every year since to continue the tradition.
In 1985 the Chorale presented a performance of J. S. Bach’s B Minor Mass in celebration of Bach’s 300th birthday. Inspired by the success of this performance, the Chorale decided the following season to expand what had been an annual Bach concert into a full-blown Bach Festival. The first NEPA Bach Festival, held in March 1986 just before Bach’s 301st birthday, featured not only a performance of choral works by Bach, but also a concert of his chamber music and another of his organ works. This event, too, was so successful that it has continued in its three-concert format up to the present day.
In addition to these two long-standing traditions, Arcadia Chorale’s concert seasons include a fall concert, a Christmas concert, and a Pops concert in conjunction with the Doug Smith Jazz Trio. These programs have run the gamut, with choral music of all types, periods and genres, from medieval Gregorian chant to newly commissioned works. The Chorale also sponsors an annual Pasta Dinner fundraiser at which the singers both serve up pasta and entertain the diners.
In 2004, the Robert Dale Chorale found itself at a crossroads. Founding music director Robert Dale Herrema had announced his intention to retire, and the organization made the decision to continue with a new director. After an intensive search process, the Chorale hired Dr. Steven Thomas, then Director of Choral Activities at Wilkes University, to succeed Mr. Herrema. In an effort to move forward in the region as an established professional chamber choir, the group changed its name to Arcadia Chorale in 2014, Dr. Thomas’ 10th anniversary season as its director.
Under Dr. Thomas’ musical leadership, the Arcadia Chorale has continued the tradition of choral excellence initially established by Mr. Herrema. Dr. Thomas has built a reputation for creative programming, often using a unifying theme as a common thread to bind together an intriguing variety of music. He has also programmed a series of Christmas “journeys,” exploring the musical traditions of Eastern Europe, Spain and Central America, as well as the British Isles. The Chorale made their first CD recording in 2006, released as Christmas in the British Isles. The continued growth and success of Arcadia Chorale has begun to attract attention from outside the region, most notably by an invitation to perform in Philadelphia at the 2010 Eastern Division Conference of the American Choral Directors Association.
The Arcadia Chorale is committed to promoting the highest standard of excellence in the performance of choral music for the education and enjoyment of the membership and the community at large.