Canceling COVID's attempt to stop the music
"COVID's not going to stop the music."
That's the message from Tim Friesen, choral director at Molalla High School. Oh, it may bend it a little, but Friesen knows that where there's a will, there's a way — and sometimes an imaginative work-around.
While the annual Singing Christmas Tree event was retired after last year's performances, Friesen, who co-wrote the show each year, said there were plans for another big musical show this year that would go in a different direction.
The pandemic put a halt to those plans, but not to Friesen's desire to share his students' music with the community.
"There are no programs of any kind planned, and I thought, "What could my vocal jazz group do to create some normalcy in their lives?'" Friesen said. "You join a team or a theater group or a band, you do it to perform. That's what I wanted us to do."
With tight distancing restrictions, and instruction being held through Zoom meetings and virtual settings, his seven-member group The Socialaires often couldn't even hear what they sounded like together. But Friesen decided together they'd be — somehow.
"What we decided to do was go into the studio, two at a time, and record a Christmas caroling montage of eight songs," Friesen said, noting that when everyone's individual parts were done, they would all be melded together. "
It's a pretty high-quality sound in this recording studio. We'll hopefully make a video to go along with it, and the students will dress in caroling garb. We want it to be festive," he said. "I'm hoping to build a prop set on stage and, while keeping our distance, do a video to go along with it. The music will be recorded, so they'll be lip-synching."
But that's only the start. Friesen wants to share this music with the community by copying the results of his students' work onto a flash drive for area businesses to play on a TV or video screen for their customers to enjoy for free.
"We are making it free to businesses in the community," he said. "I've talked with some of the bigger businesses here and some are running it up the chain, but local mom-and-pop stores are very interested, even (Cutsforth's) Thriftway in Canby is interested. My hope is to create a sense of normalcy and to have people coming into businesses seeing these kids doing this wonderful thing."
With the musical cupboard bare for the holiday season, Friesen started to get the seeds of this idea about a month ago. He ruled out a virtual live performance, then hit on the notion of somehow providing a musical background for local businesses — a background created from the music of his students.
"My hope is the businesses will say 'You provide the music, we'll provide the screen' and we'll have something for people to watch while they are shopping," he said.
Members of the Molalla High School Socialaires are Ryan Kyllo, Diego Vasquez, Trenton Totten, Julia Watson, Payton Miller, Molly Hackenjos, and Ava Nix. Friesen also applauded the help of former student and successful area musician Timothy James, who allowed The Socialaires the use of his studio to create the caroling montage.
"The kids have really enjoyed the experience of going into the studio, and Timothy has generously given his time to this project," Friesen said. "It all should be ready in about two weeks."
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