Chorale Acadienne was formed in September 1979 with financial support from the city of Lafayette. The next year the state of Louisiana awarded the organization a touring grant to fund performances in cities and towns throughout Acadiana. Michael Goudeau was named Music Director and the first Board of Directors' President was Dr. Gerald Hubbell.
From its inception the mission of Chorale Acadienne has been to present the great masterpieces of choral literature to the people of Acadiana. Chorale's first concert, a performance of the Fauré Requiem and Bruckner's Te Deum, was presented in October 1979. This program was repeated in Opelousas and Abbeville. For the next several years Chorale Acadienne prepared programs and presented concerts in Lafayette and neighboring towns, including Franklin, Crowley, Bunkie, Baton Rouge, and Eunice. By 1987 Chorale had acquired a set of risers, a piano, and regular rehearsal space at the Acadiana Arts Council building. Soon afterwards, Chorale presented its first subscription series in Lafayette at Our Lady of Fatima Church. First Presbyterian Church became the rehearsal locale. In December of 1984 Chorale performances were moved to the Cathedral of St. John, where it performs to this day. Chorale Acadienne first performed with full orchestra in 1981, and since 1985 all concerts have been given with the orchestral accompaniment required by the music.
Highlights of Chorale's history include the 1980 performances in Baton Rouge and Lafayette of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven with the Baton Rouge Symphony, Honegger's King David, featuring guest narrator Vincent Price, which was presented in Baton Rouge and Lafayette with the Baton Rouge Symphony, and performances with the New Orleans Symphony in 1981. In 1987 the group traveled to Washington, D.C. at the invitation of Catholic University to perform the Verdi Requiem at the Kennedy Center.
Guest reviewers, clinicians, and conductors have included Robert Page of the Cleveland Symphony Chorus and the National Endowment for the Arts and Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt of the Westminster Choir College. Grammy award winner Vance George, conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, has served as guest conductor on three occasions, the most recent being a memorable l994 performance of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, a work so difficult it is seldom performed.
For Chorale Acadienne's initial subscription season fewer than one hundred season tickets were sold. Since then Chorale has built a solid audience base, with more than seven hundred season ticket holders, sold-out Christmas concerts for fifteen years, and solid support from contributors.
The 1995-1996 season saw the retirement of Musical Director Michael Goudeau. He was succeeded by Dr. Leon Henry, who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from LSU. Under Dr. Henry's baton, Chorale Acadienne presented exciting programs ranging from the Renaissance to the contemporary repertoire, including guest artists from New York and Minneapolis. The season featured guest appearances by the USL Children's Choir and the USL Chorale.
In the twentieth anniversary season of Chorale Acadienne, Dr. James Haygood succeeded Dr. Henry as Musical Director and Conductor. His inaugural concert featured the Faure' Requiem and Bruckner Te Deum to commemorate the first performance by the group. In 2002 Chorale performed Carmina Burana in Prague, Czech Republic and presented the John Rutter Requiem in Brno. On two occasions the group performed at Carnegie Hall. Chorale presented the Brahms Requiem, the Mozart Requiem, Elijah, Haydns Creation, and the Bach Magnificat, among other programs. Chorale also resented a Gershwin concert with the nationally-known group Piano Four, who returned several years later for an additional performance sponsored by Chorale.Under Haygood's baton, Chorale Acadienne was awarded the Governors Arts Award for outstanding small arts organization in 2005.
Upon the retirement of Dr. Haygood in 2011, Mr. Terry Bowman was selected to be the new Artistic director. He served until the fall of 2013. Most memorable during this time was the performance of the difficult Andrew Lloyd Webber Requiem to a packed house at St. Pius Catholic Church. In 2012, Chorale continued its commitment to Louisiana music. Aided by a grant from the grants on the state and local level administered by the Acadiana Center for the Arts, Chorale celebrated the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette by presenting a program of Louisiana Acadian music, including a string quartet by member Harry Leonard, the Messe Acadienne based on Louisiana Acadian tunes arranged into a mass by Charles Reynolds, and arrangements of Cajun folk songs.
In 2013 Chorale saw the artistic directors position evolve into a dual role by Mr. John Frank Reeve and Mr. Rusty Roden. Both gentlemen bring their unique experiences and knowledge to the podium and has performed assorted concerts, the Mozart Mass in C, and a salute to Leonard Bernstein including his Chichester Psalms.
Chorale has been fortunate to count dedicated singers and board members whose voices and hard work have built the groups skill and critical success. The group derives its main sources of financial support from the private sector through contributions, season subscription sales and concert fees. It has also been blessed with supporters from the community and grants from the Louisiana State Arts Council through the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the Office of Cultural Development, the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council and the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government External Agencys arts and culture program, all administered through the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Chorale endured the crash of the local economy when the local oil boom went bust in the 1980's and has survived funding cuts for the arts at the local, state, and federal level. The Unsung Heroes campaign ensures support for the future.
For over thirty-five years Chorale Acadienne has remained true to its mission of providing choral masterworks to Acadiana audiences, and looks forward to even more years of financial and artistic growth.