The History of CODA Chorus

The Chorus began as ecumenical association of church choirs in 1967 under the leadership of Donald Auclair. Its name reveals its beginnings: the Church Organists and Directors Association. While no longer directly church-affiliated, the group does perform both sacred and secular music.

The annual CODA Christmas concert has become a holiday tradition for heralding in the holidays in the Winthrop area and since 1991, CODA also presents a Spring concert.

CODA’s directors in the last couple of decades have been Dale Perkins, Barbara Franklin, Delmar Small, Ed Larson, and currently Joëlle Morris.

CODA: In the Beginning, from the 1980 CODA Program:

It was in 1962 that Francis Harrington was approached by the Winthrop Ministerial Association with the request to orgazine the choirs of local churches to present an Inter-Faith Christmas Concert.  The first concert was held in the Winthrop Methodist Church.

CODA Concert Preparations
CODA CONCERT PREPARATIONS — Preparing for the Sunday CODA Concert at Winthrop High School auditorium are, from left, Jeff Woolston, Mrs. Richard Godfrey, Donald Auclair, director, and Mrs. Everett Harrington. (LaVallee Photo)

The response to her efforts by singers and audience alike was so enthusiastic that she agreed to continue presenting this “Christmas Gift of Song to the Community.”  In succeeding years, the concerts, under her direction, were given in the Winthrop Friends Church and St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.  In 1965, over 100 singers were presented in the concert held in the Winthrop Methodist Church.  1966 was the last year of the Inter-Faith concerts.  In the spring of 1967, CODA and CODA Chorus were formed.  Though Mrs. Harrington did not care to continue as director, her interest did not decline.  She served as chairperson of public relations and publicity, as well as historian.  She continued to sing with the Chorus for several years, and in 1973, she served as vice-president.

Once CODA Chorus was formally organized in 1967, Carol Matthews served as the first president, Donald Auclaire directed, and Margaret Godfrey was the first accompanist.  These three people devoted many years to the chorus and its early days.

Although CODA is mainly thought of at Christmas time, the first concert under the CODA name took place on September 30, 1967, following a bean supper which was for the benefit of the Winthrop Recreation Center.  Guest artists at that first conference included a harpsichordist, a violinist, a soprano soloist and a hand bell ringer as well as selections on the organ by the accompanist Margaret Godfrey.  There were 52 singers in the first chorus.

CODA's First Concert
CODA’s first concert was held September 30, 1967
Above: Donald Auclair, director; Margaret Godfrey, accompanist; and Carol Matthews, CODA president.

The first Christmas concert was held the same year on Sunday, December 3, 1967 at Winthrop High School.  More voices had been added with a total of 54 singers participating.  This concert started the tradition of a free will offering to help support the chorus.

More Members, More Concerts

May 1969 marks the date of the first spring concert with 35 singers in the chorus.  The next spring concert was two years later, then CODA did not offer a music program in the spring until 1991.  Since then, there have been both a Christmas and a spring concert each year.  In December 1992 a children’s choir, made up of students from the Monmouth and Winthrop school systems, was added to the program, and continued for about 10 years.  In April of 1994 the first exchange concert with the Ilesboro Community Choir was held.  These exchange concerts were held every spring for a decade.  For several years CODA presented additional Christmas concerts, in 2003 being invited by the University of Maine at Augusta Senior College to perform Augusta’s St. Marks’s Episcopal Church; and again in 2004-2006 at various churches in Augusta.

1971 Spring Concert workout: Members of the area CODA Chorus prepare for the concert, Springtime Serenade to be presented Saturday night at St. Francis Parish House. Shown here are Mrs. Carole Small, Robert Gunn, director, and Mrs. Carole Tainter with Mrs. James McCroary, the accompanist.

Over the years, concerts have been held at Winthrop High School, the Winthrop United Methodist Church, St. Francis Xavier Church, and currently at Hope Baptist Church in Manchester.  Membership in CODA has slowly climbed from a low of 26 in 1973 to over 100 in 2005.  Generally, membership in the 2000’s has run between 50 and 75.  Communities represented in 2017-18, CODA’s 50th year, were Auburn, Augusta, Belgrade, Buckfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, West Gardiner, Greene, Hallowell, Litchfield, Manchester, Monmouth, N. Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, Richmond, Wayne, and Winthrop.

In 1983, CODA started offering an annual music scholarship for local students to promote music excellence.  In 1986 it was dedicated and named the Jeanette Cumber Music Scholarship.

Leadership: Past, Present, and Future

CODA has been fortunate to have 50 years of excellent conductors and accompanists.  Musical directors have included Don Auclair, Robert Gunn, Carol Matthews Tainter, Jeanette Cumber, Dale Perkins, Barbara Franklin, Delmar Small, Ed Larson, and Joëlle Morris.  Joëlle has been directing the chorus since 2012.  CODA accompanists have included Margaret Godfrey, Lanny West, Ann Diamond, Harriet McCroary, Christina Misner, Nancy Lewis, Marcia Hepfner, Ruth Bond, Julia Morris-Myers, Nancy Teachout, Ed Larson, Bob Morang, Bridget Convey, Ann Hertzler, and Rebecca Caron.  Rebecca joined us in 2013.

In addition to our Director and Accompanist, CODA relies on the leadership of individual members who serve in the capacity of president, vice president, and treasurer; a board of directors; and others who help with advertisements, concert coordination, and numerous other tasks.  This network of talented people contributing in various ways will allow CODA to continue to bring our music to Winthrop and the surrounding areas for years to come!

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Winthrop, Maine