Gresham’s choir program gives its annual winter concert

Jessica Gunther, Associate Editor

  Gresham High School’s award-winning choir held its annual Winter Concert on December 17th, the last day before the student body went on winter break. In more ways than one, the concert served as the perfect send off, bringing about the warmth of the season and inspiring togetherness in the students and their families. 

   The choir program consisted of five ensembles: Treble Choir, Gresham Men’s Choir, Encore Choir, Overtones, and Concert Choir. Each group performed at least two songs, with connecting solo or duo performances in-between. The choir director, Janine Kirstein, led the concert with a cheerful persona and proved her experience by sharing details about her many years as director and explaining each tradition to the audience. It also happened to be her birthday, and a few of her performers caught her off guard by leading the entire audience in “Happy Birthday” near the end of the concert.

   The concert opened with all the choirs together, entering and surrounding the auditorium singing Carol of the Bells. I was amazed by the sophistication and sheer energy of the chilling performance, and although it was merely the introduction, at the time I doubted that any choral performance by any arrangement of people could top what I had just heard. However, to my disbelief, the concert just got better from there. 

   The Treble Choir sang “Ding Dong Merrily On High,” “First Snow,” and “The Chanukah Song.” Each song was performed well, and the voices of each soloist complemented the songs nicely. 

   As the next group entered, senior Judah Gerards performed Vince Guaraldi’s infamous piece, “Linus and Lucy,” on the piano. The solo set the tone well for more upbeat and playful songs to come by the Gresham Men’s Choir.

   Despite missing five guys in the Men’s Choir, the ones that were present seemed unaffected by the inconvenience and had no trouble entertaining the audience with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and a humorous performance of “Blue Christmas,” where two girls were escorted on stage and were serenaded by the soloists. It was no question that this received lots of applause, as well as many teasing “OoOhs” from the performers’ friends in the audience. 

   The next connecting solo was performed by senior Michael Tevs, who sang “White Christmas.” He showed his great skills as a bass and received lots of applause from the audience.

   After that was the Encore Choir, beautifully singing “Kolyadki (Carol of the Russian Children),” and “Grown Up Christmas List,” a nontraditional Christmas song that added more variety to the setlist. 

   Seniors Kyra McCloud and Isacc Walker then sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside” as a duet. The performance was enthusiastic and fun. This ushered in the Overtones. 

   The Overtones all together sang the nostalgic “Let it Snow,” the traditional “Wassail” and a personal favorite of mine, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” They then broke into two. The Sopranos and Altos sang “White Winter Hymnal,” which was an extremely impressive performance not only because of their beautiful voices but also because of the added clapping and body percussion that I’m sure was quite difficult to synchronize. The Tenors and Basses gave a hilarious performance of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” that left the entire audience laughing. The entire group gathered together again at the end to sing “Caroling, Caroling.”

   The last solo performance was from senior Finn Thornton, who gave a flawless and enchanting piano rendition of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Moment Musicaux No. 5 Adagio Sostenuto.” The atmosphere of the room was perfect for the piece, with dim lighting and an extremely captivated audience. 

   The final group, the Concert Choir, began by opening with a 20-year long tradition: seeping into the concert hall holding candles and powerfully performing “Angels We Have Heard on High.” They circled the room, walking through the audience in the near pitch-black, and effortlessly entrancing everyone (myself included) with their performance. After a long round of applause, they then performed “Bogoroditse Devo” and “O Salutaris Hostia.” The extremely talented soloists of the Concert Choir made the whole experience all the more memorable. 

   Finally, coming to my favorite part, the last song performed was “The Hallelujah Chorus,” where Kirstein invited all GHS Choir alumni in the audience to accompany them on stage. To my delight, I had the pleasure of seeing many, many alumni cram onto the stage with huge smiles on their faces, saying hello to their old friends and singing along with them as if nothing had changed. 

   Attending the Winter Choir Concert opened my eyes to how events like these bring families and friends together and build community among young and old alike. Incorporating little fun details here and there throughout the performance, such as the male performers wearing Santa hats and soloists working together to create a festive environment for the audience, made all the performers seem to come together as one to create a beautiful work of art for everyone to enjoy. After the performance altogether, alumni and students gathered around the piano on the stage and continued to sing together, and mingled in the audience exchanging laughs and praise for their outstanding performances. 

   To me, everyone involved captured what the holiday season is all about: coming together as a community and creating memories that will last a lifetime.