For the first time, Singing Christmas Tree organizers are bringing in local high school choirs for special performances at the Keller Auditorium. Of the seven Portland-area choirs asked to perform, three are from Clackamas County.

by: PHOTO BY: JAMIE SCHERSCHEL - Oregon City High School's choir, directed by Amy Aamodt, performs at the schoolwide Veterans Day assembly this month.Oregon City High School’s choir will kick off the series Saturday, Nov. 30, by joining the Tree singers at 2:30 p.m. At 2 p.m. the next afternoon, Sunday, Dec. 1, the Rex Putnam High School choir will try to outdo the OCHS performance; Clackamas High School’s A-Choir will sing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

“The Singing Christmas Tree is a well-established tradition in the Portland area for more than 50 years, and it’s a great honor to be asked to be part of such a grand production,” said OCHS Choir Director Amy Aamodt. “For students to be at such a grand venue as the Keller Auditorium is an exeptional experience for them just to be backstage and to be able to sing in such a large space.”

Putnam Choir Director Erika Lockwood also expects students will get “a very educational experience” from performing their routine in the Keller Auditorium, in addition to singing the

“Hallelujah Chorus” with a full orchestra and 350 singers.

“We are extremely honored to have been asked to perform with the Singing Christmas Tree,” Lockwood said. “It is wonderful that the new director, Wes Walterman, has decided to include area high school choirs this year.”

Tree production staffers, including Walterman and General Manager Scott Galloway, came to Oregon City and North Clackamas classrooms to listen to the kids sing, validate their talent and talk about how important they were to the remake of the Singing Christmas Tree.

The Singing Christmas Tree also will make donations to each high school choir that participates. For each ticket that is purchased using codes “rexputnam2013,” “clackamas2013” or “oregoncity2013,” the Tree will add $2 to the respective school’s total donation. The school that sells the most tickets will be treated to a pizza party.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: SCOTT DAVIS - Clackamas High Schools A-Choir gathers this year at the Lewis River Camp in Washington for their retreat in October.

Donations going to good causes

Demonstrating the closeness between the two groups of performers, the OCHS choir will be donating to band member Brandon Soumokil for his battle with stage-four Hodkins lymphoma.

“We’re all hoping for his full recovery and restored health,” Aamodt said. “The Singing Christmas Tree people are being doubly generous by donating to our program and making it all about the kids.”

Putnam singers will use the donations as part of their fundraising efforts for an acoustic shell on their auditorium. Most high school choral programs have one, but Putnam has not had one for several years.

“It will make a big difference for us and for others who perform in our auditorium,” Lockwood said. “The cost is just over $10,000, and the students and I are working hard to get one by this spring. We are about halfway there, and are extremely grateful for the Tree’s donation.”

CHS Choir Director Scott Davis also appreciated how Singing Christmas Tree is a long-standing family tradition for thousands of people throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. Davis noted it has a reputation of musical excellence, a value he strives to teach in his classroom.

“We love the family-oriented messages of peace, compassion, giving and joy that is embodied in the Tree productions and are excited to be included in the show,” he said. “It is very rewarding for students to perform the results of their hard work in rehearsal, and the Singing Christmas Tree offers a broader audience than our home concerts might bring. That said, just singing together during the holiday season is reason enough to be excited. It will be a fun, rewarding evening for performers and audience alike.”

CHS's choir is touring to Nashville over Memorial Day weekend and will use any funds donated for scholarships to students in need.

“We're also fundraising like crazy to make this trip work for any student who wants to go,” Davis said. “In Nashville we’ll have workshops with pro music recording officials. We'll record an album at RCA Studio B. We’ll give a concert at the world-famous Ryman Auditorium, catch a show at the Grand Ol’ Opry and generally have a great time learning about the professional music world. It is going to be a life-changing off-campus educational tour.”

by: PHOTO COURTESY: ERIKA LOCKWOOD - Rex Putnam High School belts out the chorus at its spring concert at Putnam earlier this year.

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