The Bay Area Choral Society is preparing for their upcoming winter concerts

The Bay Area Choral Society is preparing for their upcoming winter concerts. The Bay Area Choral society is supported by the Ilse Newell Fund for Performing Arts. In 1985, a gift of $250 was given to George Chapel by a Trinity Choir Member, Ilse Newell who passed away shortly thereafter. Upon her death, an anonymous benefactor gifted $10,000 in her memory to begin a classical music series on the Forgotten Coast.

Eugenia Watkins accepted the funds and she, Bedford, George Chapel and Rev. Glenn and Nancy Totman organized the Bay Area Choral Society in 1989, as well as a Committee to manage the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts. They felt the funds should be used to organize a community chorus and a classical music series on the Forgotten Coast during the winter months. In 1985, Eugenia Watkins became Chair of the Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts and Conductor of the Bay Area Choral Society, with Bedford Watkins as Pianist.

In May of 2007, Eugenia retired as Director of the Bay Area Choral Society and Chair of Ilse Newell Fund after 18 years of service. Others came forward to continue the Watkins/Chapel legacy for these two organizations. Several more volunteer conductors and pianists have assisted the choir, such as Merel Young, Paul Marxsen, Karl Lester, Janis Ramos, Nancy Totman, and Dana Langford.


Since its inception the chorus has performed a broad selection of classical and contemporary choral concerts. The Chorus is comprised of Gulf and Franklin county talent, as well as singers that are winter visitors to our area.

At this year’s winter concerts, the Choir will perform The Christmas Oratorio. This cantata also known as the Oratorio de Noel is a masterpiece of French composer Camille Saint-Saens. The Oratorio was intended for Church of La Madeleine in Paris. Written in only 12 days, it is scored for organ, strings, and harp with soloists and chorus. The Style ranges from simple solo recitative, solo aria, duet, trio, quartet, quintet, and full choral pieces, climaxing with the well known Praise Ye the Lord of Hosts.

Nancy Totman, director of the Christmas Oratorio, is a Florida native and received her music degree and master’s theatre degree from Florida State University. Nancy and her husband Glenn; who is native of Apalachicola and a retired Episcopal Priest, are original members and soloists of the Bay Area Choral Society. Working with Bedford and Genie Watkins, Nancy directed Amal and the Night Visitors, HMS Pinafore, Dubois’ Seven Last Words and Bach’s Unto Us a Child is Born. While teaching music at Chapman Elementary School, her students performed The Pirates of Penzance, L’il Abner and A Christmas Story. Glenn and Nancy moved home last December and are active members at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The second half of this year’s winter concert will be a selection of sacred and secular Christmas Choral pieces. The choir opens with A Christmas Carol from the musical Scrooge and arrangements of Here We Come A-Caroling, Deck the Halls, Mary Had a Baby, and Gesu Bambino: to be followed by John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music, Angel’s Carol, and I Wish You Christmas. The concert ends with a medley of favorite carols in an audience sing-along.

The director of these selections will be Dana Langford. She and her husband Steve moved to Cape San Blas in 2009 where they soon joined Port St. Joe First United Methodist Church and she became a member of the church’s Chancel Choir. Desiring to continue her passion for conducting, she has formed the PSJFUMC Young Singers. Dana is excited to be conducting with the Bay Area Choral Society this year.

Not to be forgotten, Janis Ramos accompanies the chorus on the piano. Janis, who is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, moved with her husband Victor, to beautiful Indian Pass, where she teaches piano, and they continue to find new and exciting places to travel.

The BACS will present their two Winter Concerts, Thursday, Dec. 7 beginning at 6 p.m. ET in the newly constructed Great Hall at the First United Methodist Church in Port St. Joe, and on Sunday, Dec. 10 beginning at 4 p.m. ET at Trinity Episcopal Church in Apalachicola. The cost to attend is $5 at the door. Make your plans now to hear these beautiful choral selections!