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The Wilsonville Choral Arts Society has kids choir and is developing an adult choir

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - John Hillan-Payne gets the singers warmed up during a session last week.

Between writing lesson plans and teaching music classes at Lowrie Primary School, John Hillan-Payne hasn't had much time or energy to sing in a choir since college. And even if he did, there isn't a group he could practically join.

"There's some great choirs in Portland, but to be able to teach the next morning, getting home at 9:30, 10 at night doesn't seem quite feasible, and I imagine there's a lot of people in Wilsonville who might feel the same way," he said.

Hoping to sing again and help others discover their voice, Hillan-Payne recently started the nonprofit Wilsonville Choral Arts Society with four other board members. The group already has introduced a children's choir and is preparing an adult choir that Hillan-Payne hopes will begin soon.

"A lot of towns have adult community choirs. West Linn has one. I have a friend in Scappoose; they have a children's choir. They are community-based. I thought that would maybe work great for Wilsonville as well," he said.

The children's choir currently meets at the Wilsonville United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. every Monday. Seven children participated last week, which was the choir's third session.

During the introductory meetings, Hillan-Payne taught kids how to warm up their voices, develop proper vocal mechanics and to sing fall-, holiday- and friendship-themed songs.

"I think that singing is great. I think there's lots of research showing that people who sing tend to be happier. I think singing with people, that is even more magnified than if you are by yourself," Hillan-Payne said.

His goal is for the group to sing at nursing homes and other places during the holiday season, along with performing a concert for parents.

As for the adult choir, Hillan-Payne recently sent out a survey. He said about 20 people expressed interest in joining. His goal for the choir is for it to be an alternative rather than a direct competitor with the I-5 Connection Chorus, which meets at Wilsonville Community Center.

While that choir is filled mainly with retirement-age people and sessions are held in the middle of the workday, the society's adult choir will be catered more toward working-age adults.

"Maybe you could get more kids situated, have dinner and then you can come do choir one day a week," Hillan-Payne said.

The society is working to obtain tax exemption status and eventually would like to hire a director to oversee the adult choir. The majority of the survey respondents were women so Hillan-Payne also is hoping to find men to fill lower-octave vocal roles. All abilities are welcome and joining the choirs costs $100 a year, which goes toward operational expenses.

The board is made up of two music teachers, two parents and a college student.

"We want to make sure that's (college-age) a demographic that is included," Hillan-Payne said.

For those who join the choirs, Hillan-Payne hopes singing will morph from an interest to a lifetime hobby.

"The long-term vision is there is an I-5 Connection and then there's an adult community choir that has 60-plus members and then we have high school choirs and middle choirs and a children's choir," he said. "(We have) the ability to collaborate and show people that singing is a lifetime activity. It's not something we do in school and say goodbye when we graduate."

For more information about the group, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit Wilsonville Choral Arts Society on Facebook.


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