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New artistic director John Baker relocates singers to Milwaukie Lutheran Church

The opportunity to work as artistic director of Portland Boychoir is perhaps one of the only job offers that could have pulled John Baker from retirement.

"After a wonderful and enriching career (as the choir director) at Rex Putnam High School from 1979-2011, my wife, Sandy, and I have literally traveled the world," he said.

Now, after eight years of retirement, Baker has stepped back into the working world and his "dream job."

Baker also has moved the choir to Milwaukie, and will hold auditions for boys and young men ages 6 to 18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Milwaukie Lutheran Church, 3810 S.E. Lake Road.

"This move is quite an advantage to our area singers, in that we now have a premier youth choir within easy driving distance. I'm hopeful that we'll attract enough interest to create a stable singing environment for many years to come," Baker said.

"Milwaukie Lutheran Church, with the beautiful acoustics, convenient location and friendly congregation is an excellent combination for this endeavor."

Interested boys need to arrive ready to participate in a rehearsal.

"They will be taught a few songs, which will be shared with parents and guardians at the end of our time together. In addition, we will listen to each singer individually to determine placement vocally and chorally," Baker said.

Rehearsals, concerts

Rehearsals will be held from 3:30-7:30 p.m. Sundays at the church. Primary boys, ages 6 to 8, will rehearse from 3:30-4:30 p.m., while intermediate boys, ages 7 to 11, will rehearse from 4-5 p.m. Advanced boys, ages 10 to 14, will rehearse from 3:30-6 p.m., while gents ages 11 to 18 will rehearse from 5-7:30 p.m.

"The development of the voice is more important than the age of the singer. The boys will be placed where they fit vocally," Baker said.

A distinction of the Portland Boychoir is the Premier Bells.

The boys are introduced to bell ringing for ear training and sight reading during rehearsal. Those who show excellent musicianship and a desire are invited to ring from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesdays.

The Premier Bells will ring at all scheduled concerts, Baker noted.

Performances this year include the fall concert on Oct. 20 at Milwaukie Lutheran Church, Singing with the Monks at Mt. Angel Abbey on Nov. 1, joining Baker's local Tilikum Choir in a Peace Concert on Nov. 10, and holiday concerts on Dec. 6 and 13.

A special tour will take place Feb. 14-16, during which the group will stop at Oregon State University to sing with and for the Meistersingers, go on to Newport for a performance with the Coastalaires, and will conclude at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where the boys will sleep with the sharks in the "Sleep in the Deep" program, Baker said.

Associate director

After Baker was appointed as artistic director, he oversaw the appointment of Angela Hjertstedt, associate director for the choir.

Hjertstedt student-taught with Baker at Rex Putnam, was on staff with the North Clackamas Children's Choir soon after her graduation from Portland State University, and currently is the choir specialist at Happy Valley Middle School.

"Angela has a wonderful gift of helping individuals feel comfortable, welcomed and important," Baker said.

"Her joy for life and love for people make her an excellent candidate for attracting, developing and retaining singers," he said.

COURTESY PHOTO - John Baker directs the Tilikum Community Choir during a rehearsal; he is now the artistic director of the Portland Boychoir.In addition, Hjertstedt "is an accomplished pianist and accompanist, she has a beautiful voice and knows how to model her gift to encourage others. Her teaching style is fast paced and engaging," Baker said.

The two have spent the summer rewriting the handbook, acquiring the new rehearsal site, creating advertisements, choosing literature, securing performance venues and developing a vision for the future of the organization.

"So much joy is gained from teaching singing. I am one of those few, fortunate individuals who found my profession and joy in life to be one and the same," Baker said.

He encourages any boy in the 6-to-18 age range to come to the audition, and noted there will be no pressure to join.

Baker added, "We are hopeful that in our short time together, we may introduce our joy and see it prove to be contagious."

Sing! Sing! Sing!

What: Boys age 6-18 are invited to audition for the Portland Boychoir

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8

Where: Milwaukie Lutheran Church, 3810 S.E. Lake Road, Milwaukie

More: For details, visit portlandboychoir.org or www.facebook.com/Portland-Boychoir-135365354977/


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