The Walt Morey Middle School choir made a splash at their winter concerts sporting new choir robes in a rainbow of colors, courtesy of country superstar Garth Brooks.
"It was amazing for the kids. When you dress them like a choir, they act like a choir. They have a real pride dressed in those robes," said Suzanne Chimenti, choir teacher at Walt Morey.
The new robes came to Walt Morey in a round about way.
Chimenti was invited to sing in a choir that backed up Garth Brooks at his 2019 summer concert in Eugene's Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon.
Chimenti was part of a choir of 800 singers. The 800 people were told they could keep the robes after their gig.
"I jumped up and said, 'Hey, I teach middle school choir. We don't have robes. Would anyone like to give me theirs?'" Chimenti said.
"I mean, what would people want with one choir robe?"
Brooks' employees rang up the country crooner and he gave his blessing. Chimenti rustled up some big plastic bags.
"People were so generous. They just came and dumped the robes in the bags," she said.
Chimenti gathered enough robes to outfit her 75-member choir "and then some."
She said the donated polyester robes are perfect for middle schoolers.
"They can crinkle them up in their backpacks. They're machine washable," she said.
Prior to scoring the robes, the Walt Morey choir dressed in black and white for concerts. But Chimenti said even a basic requirement like that can be a stretch for low-income students or kids who live in chaotic households.
Chimenti also likes the fact that the rainbow array of robes also reflects the diversity of the Walt Morey choir. But, when the choir dons its robes and begins to sing, they come together as one.
To honor Garth Brooks, the Walt Morey choir added Brooks' "We Shall Be Free" to their repertoire.
"It was fun to introduce my kids to a different type of music," she said.
The student choir made a large banner, thanking the country star and sent the photo of them wearing the robes and holding the banner to his organization.
At the Eugene concert, the 800 member choir accompanied Brooks on "We Shall Be Free" and the classic song "Shout." The latter song is near and dear to the hearts the Oregon Ducks because it was sung in "National Lampoon's Animal House," which was filmed on the University of Oregon campus.
"It was crazy. It was so much fun," she said of the stadium performance.
Chimenti was recruited to the Brooks choir by a former student. Chimenti has taught a total of 38 years in the Reynolds School District. She retired in 2012 and then was recruited back to teach half time at Walt Morey.
Chimenti, who also plays multiple instruments, is president of the Willamette Falls Symphony in Oregon City.
"Music is just my life," she said.
If you go…
Want to see the Walt Morey Middle School Choir in action wearing their new robes? Their next concert will be from 7-8 p.m. Monday, March 9, at Reynolds High School, 1698 S.W. Cherry Park Road.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.