1997: From left (front): Todd Piltinsrud, Lynette Wilson, Kathy Guilgot, Peggy Beatty (accompanist), Leslie Sand, Kari Iverson, Darrell Henning, Jim Womeldorf, Helen Hendrickson, Cindy Barwick, Lori Hager, Pat Joiner, Larry Joiner; (back): John Bay (director), Elea Uhl, Connie Floan, Mary Lou Rauk, Virginia McClain, Joyce Epperly, Pat Running, Rev. Hans Floan, Bill Kruse, Steve Belay, Phyllis Burri, Dick Guilgot, Judy Tjossem, Terry Sparkes. (Submitted photo)
1997: From left (front): Todd Piltinsrud, Lynette Wilson, Kathy Guilgot, Peggy Beatty (accompanist), Leslie Sand, Kari Iverson, Darrell Henning, Jim Womeldorf, Helen Hendrickson, Cindy Barwick, Lori Hager, Pat Joiner, Larry Joiner; (back): John Bay (director), Elea Uhl, Connie Floan, Mary Lou Rauk, Virginia McClain, Joyce Epperly, Pat Running, Rev. Hans Floan, Bill Kruse, Steve Belay, Phyllis Burri, Dick Guilgot, Judy Tjossem, Terry Sparkes. (Submitted photo)

John Bay, founder and director of the Decorah Chorale, has announced he is retiring after the 2013-2014 season.

The Chorale will kick off its season with a rehearsal and potluck at St. Benedict's Church at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15.

The Decorah Chorale first performed at the 4th of July celebration in Phelps Park in 1996. Since then it has performed 124 times - in Europe, in area communities and churches and throughout the Midwest. The Chorale currently features 54 members from six counties in Northeast Iowa.

John Bay came to Decorah in 1993, after serving for 23 years in the United States Secret Service - including postings at the White House in the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations. This experience took him to 104 countries. He also served as a Secret Service agent in Denver and Grand Junction, Colo., Omaha and Kansas City.

Bay's first directing experience was at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in his hometown of Shenandoah, at age 15. Soon after, he expanded his directing duties to St. John's Lutheran Church in rural Essex. His father would drive him to rehearsals and wait for him, since he did not yet have a driver's license.

He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1967 with a degree in music; taught middle school for one year; then served in the U.S. Army in Viet Nam.

Vocal music always has been part of Bay's life. His experiences include directing the Augustana Lutheran Church and Radio Choirs in Denver; the Lutheran Men's Chorale and the St. Paul's Lutheran Church Choir in Omaha and the United Methodist Church Choir in Decorah. In addition to directing, Bay sang professionally with the Cherry Creek Chorale in Denver and at the Washington Catherdral in Washington, D.C.

"It has been a privilege to direct such a fine group of singers the last 18 years," Bay said. "They have served the community with distinction and contributed enormously to the cultural climate of Decorah and the Midwest. They are not only fine singers, they are wonderful friends."

During Bay's last season, the Chorale will present a benefit concert Sunday, Nov. 10, at T-Bock's second floor, with all proceeds going to the United Methodist Church's Thanksgiving Meal project. The annual benefit concert for Winneshiek County Habitat for Humanity is at Decorah Lutheran Church Sunday, Dec. 15. The spring concert is at St. Benedict's Church Sunday, May 4. Other appearances will be announced during the season.