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Grotto kicks off Festival of Lights on Friday

Several East County choirs set to share songs during holidays
by: File photo The Barlow High School choir performs at the Grotto Chapel, renowned for its sound quality.

Several East County choirs will perform at The Christmas Festival of Lights at the Grotto, on the corner of Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, Portland.

The festival will run from Friday, Nov. 25, through Friday, Dec. 30, and is closed Christmas Day.

'The Grotto' is the popular name of The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, a 62-acre Catholic shrine and botanical garden, administered by the Order of Friars Servants of Mary.

Brian Gerards, director of the Gresham Christmas Choir, says his group - made up of 50 folks ranging in age from 20 to 90 - will perform Sunday, Dec. 11.

The choir has been rehearsing weekly at First Baptist Church, 224 W. Powell Blvd., where Gerards also directs the church choir. The choir will sing selections from a musical titled 'Emmanuel Has Come,' which includes an array of music from baroque to contemporary performed by the choir, small groups and soloists. Piano, string synthesizer, flute, oboe, bass and drums accompany the singers.

'We have always loved performing at the Grotto,' he says of the Gresham Christmas Choir. 'There's a dignity about that venue. It's just a very wonderful place to sing.'

Like many singers and choir directors over the years, he notes that the Grotto's 600-seat chapel features world-class acoustics.

'It has much more resonance than any other place a person would sing,' he says.

The Christmas Choir will also perform at 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, at First Baptist Church.

East County choirs will perform on the following dates.

Monday, Nov. 28: Corbett Middle School, 5:15 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 1: Barlow High School, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 8: Alder Creek Middle School, 5:15 p.m.; Sandy High School Symphonic and Pionaire Choir, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 11: Gresham Christmas Choir, 5:15 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 15: Centennial High A Capella Choir, 7 p.m.; Gresham High Concert Choir, 8 p.m.

Festival facts

The festival runs from 5 to 9:30 p.m. each day, with the grounds closing at 10 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 3-12, and free for children 2 and younger.

Tickets are available at the entry gate or may be purchased in advance at The Grotto's Gift Shop before 4 p.m. daily.

Free parking is available.

Visitors are asked to bring a donation of canned or dry food for SnowCap, which serves low-income people in East County.

The 2011 festival features nearly 170 indoor holiday concerts performed by many of the region's finest school, church and civic choirs. The 2011 festival theme is 'Joy to the World.'

Five indoor concerts are scheduled each evening in The Grotto's chapel, and entertainment in the plaza area includes outdoor caroling, puppet shows and a live animal petting zoo.

Holiday foods and beverages are also available, as are seasonal items in The Grotto's Christian Gift and Book Store.

The Festival of Lights is a walk-through event and visitors can expect to walk approximately one-quarter mile. All entertainment areas are either indoors or fully tented but visitors should dress for the weather.

While accessible to those with disabilities, the festival is not recommended for the elderly or frail.

Nearly 1,000 volunteers help staff the festival each year.

For more information, call the Festival of Lights Hot Line at 503-261-2400 or visit thegrotto.org.