After two years of competitive event cancelations, North Clackamas Christian School again won the 1A/2A choir state championship on May 5.
NCCS choir was happy to defend its title as the reigning state champion for four years running, from 2016-19. They had to endure the state canceling both the 2020 and 2021 OSAA championships, and they began the current school year singing masked and with 6-foot spacing at state-qualifying contests.
NCCS's Excelsior choir received the top 1A/2A school scores at both the George Fox University and Oregon Small School invitational qualifiers. Getting to compete — and win — the state championship at Oregon State University without having to sing through masks was a high point of the decade for the NCCS choir.
"It was a fantastic ending to a wonderful, passionate set of music," said choir director Rebecca Steele. "We are so grateful for the opportunity again and thankful for these amazing kids and all they have endured to keep singing well these past few COVID years."
It was a personal victory for both the students and director. This was Steele's last year with her daughter Brea in the choir. Now a senior who performed the closing solo at the state competition, Brea was an infant when Steele started teaching at the school. Brea has watched all four of her siblings perform with Steele as the years rolled by.
Steele was proud of all her students for having overcome such difficult circumstances and loss through all the changes with COVID over the last few years.
"These students have really dug down and worked to create an excellent set of music," she said. "We have used this to bring hope and encouragement across Oregon and Washington on choir tour through performing at care homes, a grade school, Lacey and Longview. We even had a flash mob at Pike Street Market and Red Robin. These students have really put the music to heart."
Performing at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis this month was NCCS's first competition without masks in two years.
"We are excited to share our hearts with expression and a fuller oxygen intake," Steele said. "We are thankful for a chance to return to some normalcy and just to have a chance to compete again."
Steele said the students' experiences this year helped them realize how music can impact everyone's lives. Freshman choir member Vivienne Hodder encouraged Steele to continue musical ministry trips.
"Getting out of my comfort zone and seeing the impact that these ministry trips has had on people's lives has really helped motivate me to keep going," Hodder said.
With a large number of senior choir members graduating this year, their repertoire turned toward change, such as with a piece called "Flight Song" by Kim Andre Arneson.
"I have taught many of these students since grade school and watched them grow into amazing caring and talented young people ready to begin their flight," Steele said. "One of the phrases of this song really capture the years as we have traveled together and prepared to send them out, to fly."
Senior choir member Kira Burch said that the whole song tells a story about life through voices and through singing.
"My favorite line is, 'Afraid, uncertain, alive to love, we sing as love,'" Burch said. "We are afraid; there is darkness ahead of us and behind, but even through that, we can fly with God as our wings, and like my favorite line says, we can live to love, and reflect that through our song despite our fear, not just in place of it."
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