North Clackamas Christian School, located in Oregon City, was the only small school and one of only four schools in the state this month to receive a score of outstanding during the Oregon Music Education Association's large choir ensemble contest.
NCCS is a small (1A) school, and other programs receiving outstanding marks were Wilson (6A), West Linn (6A) and South Albany (5A).
Rebecca Steele, NCCS choral director, said her students have overcome great obstacles and stood bravely in the face of a pandemic with difficult circumstances.
"They make my heart swell with joy and pride," Steele said. "I am profoundly proud of them for all their hard work this year to reach a point of excellence with the odds stacked against them, to not only compete at the highest level, but also persevere and give their best when it hasn't been an easy task."
Traversing the past year, NCCS's choir started completely remote. The kids fought "to bring hope with their voices and hearts" by producing not only a full Veteran's Day program in the fall, but also a fully remote K-12 Christmas program. Beginning with a rendition of "O Come All You Faithful," the high school choir program's grand finale included artwork by choir member Hannah Stark.
"We try to make the world a little better in our corner with our hearts and song," Steele said.
NCCS returned to in-person classes starting in January, and its choir banded together to compete virtually in an ensemble contest. Competing in all classifications (1A-6A), rather than the usual 1A/2A competition, they won the district, propelling them to state. After receiving the outstanding finish from Oregon Music Education Association, NCCS will also enter the Oregon School Activities Association festival.
"We are so grateful for these moments, even in the pandemic, as we fight health issues and family crises and many other personal struggles," Steele said. "These kids know how to stand together and know how to fight the good fight."
NCCS's choir this year has been sharing its music by traveling to schools and care homes whose members are vaccinated. Choir members stay masked and socially distant but hope to bring a message of joy to all who are able to hear. Later on this year, they plan to make a difference at the Capitol steps in Salem and on the Willamette River waterfront to safely bring their message in song.
"I will be so glad when we can sing without masks and social distancing again," Steele said. "These are all capable and wonderful students, and they have all worked hard and pushed their comfort zones and vulnerability to produce some amazing music despite this pandemic."
One of this year's NCCS choir pieces, "The Battle of Jericho," tackles the theme of overcoming through a spiritual composed by Moses Hogan, an actual musical battle for two minutes and 34 seconds. Steele encouraged her students to discuss the meaning of the song in their own lives, and many students agreed it was a fitting representation of so much that has been overcome in the past months.
"To me, 'The Battle of Jericho' reminds me that I can persevere through difficult times, knowing that God is on my side," said NCCS senior Evan Morris.
NCCS performances can be found on Youtube by searching "NCCS music" or at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNCVwWKK1E6NaQV6mQl3gcw/videos.
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