The Beginning ...
In 1931, Dr. Marie Boette, a music teacher at Parkersburg High School, accompanied a small group of music students to Detroit to compete in an a cappella singing competition. This experience led to the formation of the Parkersburg High School A Cappella Choir in 1932.
It was the first a cappella choir in the state of West Virginia and consisted of 31 members under Dr. Boette’s direction. The choir’s goal was to present advanced choral music without accompaniment, thus the name “A Cappella.” Members were required to “possess well-matured voices and be qualified both vocally and in the fundamentals of music.”
The first choir robes were made that year by PHS sewing department under the direction of Miss Hazel McHenry. These red and white traditional choir robes have remained the same for 80+ years.
By 1941, the choir had grown to nearly 70 members and was respected community-wide. Successful completion of voice class had become a prerequisite to becoming a member of the choir. By 1944, the choir met every day during a regular school period to perfect their music. Each year, prospective members auditioned for the choir and were selected on the basis of their vocal talent and musical abilities.
A Cappella members have long been associated with excellent grades, participation in school and community activities, outstanding behavior, and positive attitudes.
Over the decades, The A Cappella Choir has performed literally hundreds of times at PHS holiday assemblies, senior sermons and graduations. The choir has been the basis for many PHS minstrel shows, operettas, music festivals, musicals, and revues. A Cappella is known for giving its services to many churches, clubs, and organizations. Each year, the choir gives a Christmas concert and spring concert open to the public. The Christmas concert features several traditions: opening the concert with “Fanfare for Christmas Day,” the candlelight processional and recessional “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah performed by the choir and alumni.
The A Cappella Choir has performed at many locations, including Florida, New York, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Toronto. The choir sang in Washington, D.C., for President Truman in 1949 and President Johnson in 1966. They returned to the nation's capital in 2007.
Other performance groups selected from within The A Cappella Choir have included quartets, detects, madrigals, and chamber choir. Each year, the choir sends members to All-State Chorus and All-State Chamber Choir.
And Today ...
Even after 85 years, The A Cappella Choir tradition of excellence remains the same. During the past five years, the choir has received top honors in competition in Atlanta, Toronto, and New York City. The choir has sung with choirs from Marietta College, Ohio University, West Virginia Institute of Technology, and First United Methodist Church. In April 2000, the Chamber Choir, along with West Virginia University at Parkersburg and Parkersburg South High School Chamber Choir premiered “The Unknown Region” by Kenton Coe.
In 2004 and 2005, the PHS Chamber Choir sang the national anthem at a professional basketball game in the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. They were invited again in December 2006.
The A Cappella Choir was selected as an Honor Group for the 2000, 2002, and 2005 West Virginia Music conferences.
In August 2018, PHS celebrated its Centennial at the present location of Dudley Avenue. There was a Centennial Celebration at Memorial Fieldhouse which was open to the public. A Cappella Choir Alumni, represented clear back to the Class of 1947, gathered with the present A Cappella Choir to perform several musical selections to mark the historic event. The Centennial Celebration Choir was under the direction of Jean Singer, Cathy Martin and Pamela McClain.
In 2018 and 2019, the A Cappella Choir competed in the World Strides Heritage Festivals in Orlando, Florida and New York City, New York, respectively. The choir swept the awards for both years at competition and were extended invitations to perform at Carnegie Hall. Both were memorable competitions for A Cappella Choir as the 2018 Orlando World Strides Festival was the final competition for the choir under the direction of Pamela McClain, and the 2019 New York City World Strides Festival was the first competition for the choir under the new director, Joshua Dubs.
The Tradition Continues ...
After eight decades, more than 3,000 alumni, seven dedicated directors, and thousands of musical memories, the tradition continues.
A Cappella Choir Directors
Dr. Marie Boette 1931-1936
Leonard Withers 1937-1939
Esther Abels Cunningham 1940-1950
Helen Houston 1950-1951
Esther Abels Cunningham 1952-1966
Jean Singer 1967-1997
Catherine Martin 1998-2004
Pamela McClain 2004-2018
Joshua Dubs 2018-