1993 Start

After the band’s January Winter Festival 1993, the next concert was planned; an Independence Day, with band and chorus, similar to the Boston Pops’ 4th of July Concerts.  Finding a chorus was relatively easy; singers in Birdcage musicals were asked. 

Dave and Linda Chollet, were tasked to lead the chorus.  Dave, a local choir director, band musician, and experienced Birdcage musical leader, was chosen to direct the new OCCB ensemble.  His wife, Linda, a very fine pianist, helped with music selection and accompaniment.

Amelia Jennings, Oroville Community Relations Manager, was contacted about 04 July 1993, and agreed to the concert.  Said Linda, “Amelia arranged to set up food and craft things on Myers Street between Robinson and Bird.  It was a great day.  After that Amelia decided it should be an every year thing!”

The chorus under Chollet, 1993–1995, only performed with the band in July.  Each season was the several months needed to prepare and perform that concert, and then the chorus disbanded until practice began for the next July concert.

Chorus Wanted More

The Chorus wanted to perform other gigs.  One who tried to help the year round chorus was early band president, Loren Fox.  He insisted his part was small, and that others did the real hard work.

First, Fox found someone to arrange the use of Oroville’s Foothill Community Church for rehearsals.  The church, because of its cast-member involvement, often opened its doors as a rehearsal site for the musical productions of Birdcage from 1988-92, and again for the first three short seasons of the OCChorus 1993-95.

Loren then made an announcement after the 4July 1995 concert letting folks know the location and time of the first rehearsal.  With those rehearsals later in 1995, the chorus officially becomes year round.  Fox went to the first 2-3 practices only to help get it started.  The chorus had to choose and elect it’s own officers, and find a volunteer rehearsal pianist.  Loren Fox didn't want to burden Jim Christensen with another organization, and was hoping others would take charge.  Jim, however, jumped right in and took charge, bringing in music, etc.


December 2, 1996
Jim Christensen leads the chorus in its first solo performance.

Musical Chairs

Jim Christensen led OCC in the 4JULY 1996 Concert, and in its first separate Chorus Concert from the band in December, with a non-Christmas play list including, Phantom of the Opera, Tuxedo Junction, and Gypsy in My Soul.

In 1997, the chorus participated in the 4JULY Concert, and the first Christmas Concert for both band and chorus.  Thus began an annual tradition of the chorus performing both concerts each year.  Dave Chollet was the OCChorus Director for 4July 1997, and Jim Christensen, the Director at Christmas 1997.

During this time, chorus-band-Birdcage member, Karen Finley, had emerged as a promising director.  The 4JULY 1998 Concert, and the Winter Choral Ensemble 1998 (chorus only) programs list Jim Christensen and Karen Finley, as co-directors.  The Choral Ensemble presentation opened with non-seasonal fare, and then performed Christmas music after the intermission.

After these 1998 concerts, Jim Christensen officially turned the chorus baton and leadership over to Karen Finley, who led group through the 4JULY 2009. Jim Christensen took over OCC again 4JULY 2010 after Karen retired. Robert Brown, OCCB-OCC, volunteered in early 2014 to direct the chorus for 4July 2014. Robert led the chorus until 4July 2015. Jim re-took leading the chorus Sep-Dec 2015. Jim chose to resign as Director on 17 December 2015. The baton was passed to Bill Eslick to lead the chorus.

NEXT: Music Directors: Michael Walker and April Taylor