Music is the language of building community for Bay Chorale

If you sit in the audience at the Bay Chorale Spring Concert, you’ll hear music from beloved American composers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein.

If you stand on the stage with the choir, though, it’s a whole different experience. Members of the choir spent months practicing the upbeat music. While they learned the nuances of the songs, they also enjoyed a sense of community, involvement, and fun.

Barb Handley Miller, a Bay Chorale member, wants everyone to experience that joy.
The Bay Chorale celebrates its 56th year with a tribute to American composers in its Spring Concert, set for 7 p.m. Fri., April 21, at the historic State Theatre, 913 Washington Ave. in Downtown Bay City. The concert includes selections from “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady,” and “A Chorus Line,” as well as jazz and gospel music.

Tickets may be purchased at or by calling the box office at (989) 892-2660. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students.

“It’s a very upbeat concert and a great range of music,” says Handley Miller. “We were able to pull a lot from our library, but also mix in some more contemporary and fast paced stuff, and things from Broadway that’ll just be fun.”

The Bay Chorale will be joined by the Bay City Central High School Varsity Choir and is directed by Tri-County musician John Rickert with accompaniment by Kristin Neubecker.

While making music is the primary purpose of Bay Chorale, fun and friendship also are part of the experience. (Photo courtesy of Bay Chorale)“We have a pretty extensive library of music from doing this for 56 years; we try to make it a mix of classic and contemporary tunes,” says Handley Miller when reflecting on how many years the Bay Chorale has been bringing music and entertainment to the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Handley Miller also appreciates that Bay Chorale offers more to the community than beautiful performances. The choir also offers a sense of community, involvement, and enjoyment.

Handley Miller remembers joining the choir 13 years ago.

“I joined Bay Chorale and it’s just been a great group of people who are very committed to choir music and they love singing together.”

Bay Chorale formed in 1967 and grew rapidly, reaching around 100 members in the early days. Many of those members are still active in the choir today.

“It grew very fast and they did their concerts in high school auditoriums and some different area churches,” says Handley Miller.

Settling into a mid-sized choir of roughly 30 members today, the Bay Chorale is proud to call the State Theatre its home.

“We officially moved into the State Theatre in 2022 and that was a wonderful thing because it’s like we have a home now,” recalls Handley Miller. “Prior to that, we were kind of migrating; area churches hosted us, which was great, and then of course, we would advertise community wide, but the State Theatre offered us a home.”

Handley Miller is hopeful that having a home base will help new audiences and new members discover the choir and become involved.

Several members of the chorale group have been involved since its very beginning. (Photo courtesy of Bay Chorale)“With the consistency of knowing where we’re going to be, our audience knowing, and now new audiences will know where to find us, we’re very grateful to the State Theatre for inviting us.”

Handley Miller is also eager to introduce five new members to the choir this session, as well as continuing partnerships with local high school choirs.

“We have had high school students join in the past,” Handley Miller says. “That’s part of the reason we partner with the high school choirs, we want those students to know if they’re staying in the area, then this is a great group to join.”

If interested in joining the Bay Chorale or for general information message Handley Miller through the group’s Facebook page, Bay Chorale Facebook, or email her directly at 

Bay Chorale is a nonprofit organization that thrives on donations, ticket sales, and membership dues. Members can expect to pay $30 per session, with one session spanning three months, including weekly Monday night rehearsals. There are two sessions per year. The first prepares for the Spring Concert and the second session readies for the Christmas Concert, with potential special events thrown into the mix.

“We were invited this past Christmas to sing at MI Table for their Harry Potter-themed dinner, that was a lot of fun,” says Handley Miller. “So we do some special events like that, but generally, we’re working on those two main concerts.”

“We practice once a week, just Monday nights from 7 to 9:30 p.m. with a break in the middle”, says Handley Miller. "The director might add a Saturday rehearsal now and then closer to the concert.”

Practices are structured with the help of director Rickert and other members with professional music backgrounds. Professional vocal skills are not required to join, but knowing how to read sheet music is preferred.

“It’s so much like a college class, it builds and builds,” says Handley Miller. “We’re always learning from each other. It’s an enjoyable activity. You meet new people and that’s what’s been great this session — having five new members and welcoming new people into the choir.”

Only a few years ago, Handley Miller recalls how the choir went silent due to restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We quit singing the winter of 2020, so we did not have a Spring or Christmas Concert. It’s like losing something that you really love. It was hard for us.”

Thrilled to be back, Handley Miller and the Bay Chorale are focused on growing their members and audience.

Handley Miller firmly believes the Bay Chorale is for everyone. One may experience its positive impact through becoming a member or by enjoying performances at the State Theatre.

Once you’ve felt their impact, Handley Miller is convinced you’ll want to join. 

“People should join the choir because you will learn a lot more about music, you will make new friends, and you will be proud of yourself when you contribute to putting on a great performance.

“It’s musical alchemy,” she continues. “By the time you have practiced together for three months— there might be small things you’re still working on, but we’re making real music together — it’s miraculous. There’s joy in that.”
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