The Choral Society was founded in 1949 by Jane Watkins Sullivan and Marian Wallace Smith, two amateur musicians in Durham who were tired of commuting to Raleigh to sing in the Raleigh Oratorio Society.
First organized as the Durham Oratorio Society, the group incorporated in 1951 as the Durham Civic Choral Society. The name was changed to Choral Society of Durham in 1997.
Talented musical leadership has been a cornerstone of the Choral Society since its inception. The following conductors have had the longest tenures with the group:
- Allan H. Bone (Duke University), 1949–56, 1967–70, 1971–72
- Paul R. Bryan (Duke University), 1957–67
- Robert Porco (UNC-Chapel Hill), 1972–80
- Larry Cook (UNC-Chapel Hill), 1982–86
- Rodney Wynkoop (Duke University), 1986-present