Gresham High choir prepares swan song for vintage auditorium
There will be a lot of goodbyes this year at Gresham High School as the historic school and its inhabitants prepare for a major remodel. The Gresham choirs will bid farewell to the old auditorium with a gala winter concert on Thursday, Dec. 14.
Because it will be the choir's last concert in the space, choir director Janine Kirstein invited alumni to come back and sing.
Anyone who sang in any of the Gresham High School choirs from past years can join in Handel's "Messiah" with the current choirs. Several former choir directors are also likely to attend.
"It's going to be fantastic," said Kirstein.
It also will be the last time the choir will perform its moving rendition of "Angels We Have Heard On High" in the old space. In this popular tradition, the singers, wearing their blue choir robes, move down the aisles of the auditorium with candles while singing the carol.
The concert will offer a mix of contemporary and classical selections. About 220 students will sing.
This is also the 100th anniversary of the Gresham High School choirs. The choir will be selling T-shirts to commemorate the choir's decades of music making.
The demolition and rebuilding of Gresham High School will be done in stages, with the auditorium scheduled to be taken down in May 2018. While the new theater is being built, the choir will perform in various churches in the area, Kirstein said. Students will attend school in the current location as parts of the old building are torn down, rebuilt or significantly remodeled.
The Art Deco-style section of Gresham High that fronts on Main Avenue was built by the Works Progress Administration beginning July 11, 1939. Along with Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, the school is one of WPA's signature projects in the area. The auditorium was finished in August 1940.
The beige brick facade features bas-relief sculptures typical of many WPA buildings. The four panels over the auditorium depict figures holding symbols of the arts. Two figures hold Greek tragedy and comedy masks representing the theater, another holds a musical instrument and the third a scroll of writing. These are scheduled to be saved and incorporated into the new building.
The new theater and concert hall promises to be a soaring, dramatic presence along the busy intersection of Main Avenue and Division Street.
Kirstein is excited about the new performance space.
"It's going to be amazing," she said. "It will have better acoustics, although it won't hold as many people. Still, it is sad too. There is decades of tradition in this one."
If you go
What: Gresham High School Winter Alumni Concert
When: 7 p.m.
Where: 1200 N. Main Ave. Thursday, Dec. 14