Meet The Chorus



Choosing Joy - featured guest artist Gary Giles!

Gary Giles, who first sang gospel music at the age of 3, says he is thrilled to have the good fortune of joining such an exceptional choral ensemble as the Kulshan Chorus as guest artist for their gospel and spiritual genre Winter Concert: Choosing JOY – a Soul Journey. 


Giles began performing professionally as an actor and vocalist in 1983 with the Avante’ Theater Company in a touring production of Ain’t Misbehavin’.  Since then he has performed in scores of musicals as well as dramatic and comedic productions.  Some of his favorites have been The Wiz (as the Wizard), Purlie (as Rev. Purlie) Home (as Cephas Miles), Working (as Lovin’ Al), Big River (as Jim the runaway slave) in Ragtime (as Coalhouse Walker Jr.) and most recently, since arriving in Bellingham from the City of Brotherly Love in 2015, at the Mount Baker Theatre in Driving Miss Daisy (as Hoke) and in the world premier musical, Marina (as Ivory Jack). 


It is with great JOY we welcomed Gary Giles to Kulshan Chorus. 

Meet Our Board President: Sonja Lee

"I joined Kulshan Chorus in 2001 when asked by my sister to chaperone her youngest daughter who wanted to sing with the chorus..."


I joined Kulshan Chorus in 2001 when asked by my sister to chaperone her youngest daughter who wanted to sing with the chorus. I was hooked thereafter by the message and energy of the chorus, was recruited to join the board in 2006 and again recruited into the role of Board President in 2008. 


As Board President I supervise all activities of the corporation, execute all contracts, set the agenda, preside over and facilitate board meetings, work with various committees both internally and externally, seek venues and outreach opportunities, donors/donations and volunteers, and do whatever is needed to ensure the long-term viability and success of the chorus. One major accomplishment as Board President has been the successful transition from our Founding Director to our Artistic Director Dustin Willetts. A national search brought Dustin to us and he has been simply a joy to have as our Artistic Director. Breathing new life into the chorus, he continually expands our musical knowledge and creates concerts that are truly moving experiences. The board is looking forward to a bright future for the Kulshan Chorus and I am happy to help guide the journey! 


It seems like every new season becomes a "new" favorite with Dustin at the helm. This upcoming season "Choosing Joy - A Soul Journey" likely will be no exception. The music is diverse in exploring the depths of the "soul" -- think Soweto Gospel Choir, Civil Rights, Traditional Spirituals and songs of praise and jubilation. Oh Happy Day! I can't wait for this one to hit the stage, it's going to be a blast!


Hmm, a favorite song, again so hard to call, and this is a song we have not done in quite some time but I adore "Hold On Just a Little While Longer" as the message is so meaningful to me ... because you know, "everything's going to be alright."

Meet one of our Members: Julie McElroy

"Joining other voices to create and play through our own sound has a been a long-time desire of mine. ..."


How long have you been with the chorus? This is my first season as a member of the Kulshan Chorus.

What made you join / How did you hear about us?  Joining other voices to create and play through our own sound has a been a long-time desire of mine. With little musical background, my interest to sing has spawned into a passion, and I finally decided to attempt becoming part of the Kulshan Chorus. Being a native to Bellingham, I had known of the Kulshan Chorus, but it was my Mom who sparked my interest and shed light on the authenticity of this group. The intention and spirit of the music created from these individuals is beautiful and significant, and I greatly desired to be a part it! For myself, singing helps me unwind from stress, reconnect with myself and others, as well as promotes physical healing and wellness. Years ago, I'd had a thyroidectomy where there was some nerve damage to a region that served my voice and I found that there were some "empty notes" in my vocal range. Singing as a Tenor II targets a specific area of my voice where I've needed to add strength and healing. As I rebuild the power source to my voice, I've found myself enriched with this incredible community of singers and individuals who magnify inspiration and are committed to optimism and hope. It is the greatest honor to be one voice amongst many within this group. The passion to create, inspire and invoke awareness is nurtured within this chorus, and I feel the work that happens through these voices is prevalent and necessary.


Have you seen the chorus in the past and if so, what was one of your favorite seasons and why? Having been living in Portland for many years, I was out of the loop of what was going on in Bellingham. It wasn't until last season that I came to a performance, where my soul was danced away on a magical and powerful journey in the Water Concert. I felt such strong emotions throughout that performance, and just was in awe with the deliberate and beautiful work of the entire group. I loved the boldness, the delicateness, the choreography, the pain, and the fun. I was so drawn to the magic of this chorus, I was inclined to be a part of their sound and motion immediately! But easing into things with "Into the Mystic" with the Atlantics, and rolling soon into "Africa" by ToTo, is a recipe for some serious heart melting, and I loved it.


What's one of your favorite songs this season? There are so many songs that have become important to me in this concert, and a handful that are my favorites! But I will say that "Pass On the Love" has a direct line to my spirit that reflects a crucial message, that is time relevant and so valuable. My favorite words in it are "...the change begins with me, we got to break through the fear, bust through the hate, reach out our arms, pass on the love." Ohh, it's going to be good!

Meet one of our Members: Fumio Otsu

"Encouraged by a friend, my wife and I attended our first Kulshan Chorus concert in spring of 2008...."


Responsibility: Music Distribution and House manager for the Spring and Winter concerts.

Encouraged by a friend, my wife and I attended our first Kulshan Chorus concert in spring of 2008. We thoroughly enjoyed the concert and my wife joined the chorus for the winter 2008 concert. Since 2008 I have attended and enjoyed the Kulshan Chorus concerts each year.

Over the years I have attended, the Beatles concert was my favorite because there was high level of energy and audience participation. My favorite Kulshan chorus song was the City of New Orleans. It was sung at two concerts I attended.

In 2010, I volunteered for ushering at the concerts. I began ushering for each concert and in 2015 I also became responsible for music distribution to the chorus members and other participants.

My level of responsibility for the Kulshan Chorus continued to increase. Then in the spring of 2017, I became the House Manager for the spring and winter concerts. Along with the responsibility of House Manager, I became a director for the Kulshan Chorus. I also continued with music distribution.

Meet one of our Members: Mark Springer

"I joined in the winter of 1988, about three months after moving to Bellingham..."


How long have you been with the chorus? I joined in the winter of 1988, about three months after moving to Bellingham. I think the Chorus had about thirty-some people in it at the time and was rehearsing in the Roeder Home.

What made you join / How did you hear about the chorus?  I don't remember how the subject came up at work, but my former colleague and Kulshan Chorus member Floyd Lewis found out I liked to sing and asked if I was interested in joining. I said yes, and while I've missed a few concerts due to travel, I've sung every season since.

What was one of your favorite seasons and why?  I find "favorite" questions hard to answer because I like lots of different things in general, and music is no exception to that. So I guess I like seasons where we have musical variety, that is, we're either singing a lot of music I'm not real familiar with and/or singing a concert with songs from very different traditions but which more or less tie together in a common theme.

What’s one of your favorite songs? Another tough question, for the same reason.  Of course my favorites are going to have great tenor parts, so I guess one of my favorites over the last few years is Omnia Sol.