There is nothing like the captivating sounds of a gifted choir whose voices rise and blend to lift your spirit and mend the heart. That is precisely the role of the Bayside Singer. For more than a decade, the Bayside Singers have been entertaining people through the gift of song with unique and lovely harmonies on the Long Beach Peninsula.
It all started in 2007 when Sandy Nielson moved to the Peninsula and was disappointed that she couldn’t find a choir to join. So, she took matters into her own hands and started the group in her home. No one imagined they would outgrow the space in her home in only a few years and expand to the over 40 singers they have today.
It began with just a few original members, including Diane Buttrell, Nancy Logan, and Christi Mack, who gathered around Sandy’s grand piano as she played along. The group’s first performance was at the first annual Osterville Celebration in the historic schoolhouse. Word quickly spread, and soon people from all around the area were requesting to join. Now, the group’s holiday and spring performances are packed to capacity. They also often perform on Memorial Day weekend and at Oysterville Church.
Bayside Singers has seen many changes in their group over the past decade. Still, it’s the hard work and dedication of the members that have made it such a success. First on the list of things to do was to create a nonprofit (501-c3). Celsa Johnson was instrumental in handling the massive undertaking, along with the help of Andrea Patten. Together they dedicating their time and energy to completing all the paperwork required and got it done. Clay Nichols agreed to step up as the first official president when they were officially granted nonprofit status.
Eventually, they began to welcome men into the group. Their bass and baritone voices adding depth to the higher tones of the women. Today they have 14 men and are always on the lookout for more to help balance the sound. They currently meet and rehearse at the Ocean Park Lutheran Church for a couple of hours every Tuesday.
As the Bayside Singers grew and became more organized, they realized that they needed a conductor, so the search began. The first person who applied for the position was just a little too rigid and overqualified. Fortunately, Barbara Poulshock, the group’s concert accompanist at the time, known as the “Matriarch of Music” on the Peninsula, agreed to accept the position as Director.
As a past professor of music at PLU in Tacoma, and a vocal and opera workshop coach and composer, Poulshock was a welcome addition to the group and a huge influence in creating their signature sound. Another significant impact on the group was Barbara Bate, who took over as accompanist.
When Barbara Poulshock announced in 2019, at the age of 92, that she was finally stepping down after many successful years as Director, the group faced a significant challenge. How would they replace her knowledge and dedication? The search was on once again, and that is when they were introduced to Milton Williams.
Milton had just moved onto his family’s five-acre farm in Oysterville, where they often vacationed from San Francisco. He was just getting settled in the area when he heard of the opening and applied. His qualifications are vast and impressive. He is a professional vocal teacher, as well as a choral director, baritone soloist, and composer, and professional narrator. He also taught music for seven years at the University of California at Berkeley. His remarkable musical accomplishments and experiences have taken him around the globe. He has even performed at the Vatican! As you can imagine, his impact on the group has been positively significant.
Adjusting to Milton’s style wasn’t easy. Change can be difficult, especially when following the legacy of Barbara Poulshock, whose style was less formal than Milton’s. But the group has risen to the challenge, adjusted, and is thriving with his influence. 2020 is bound to be another extraordinary year for the Bayside Singers, who keep growing and blessing us with their combined talents. If you’ve never seen the Bayside Singers perform, you’re missing out! You can follow them on Facebook to hear when and where they are performing.