School concert Dec. 14; Grotto performance set for Dec. 15
by: Contributed photo Members of Gresham High’s Overtones choir sing at Pioneer Place in downtown Portland Dec. 9 as Janine Kirstein directs. The school’s nationally recognized program has four concerts this week.

After choir students from Gresham High School sang last week at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, a nurse approached them and told them about a 13-year-old boy whose heart they had touched.

The nurse told the students the boy had been having a terrible day until they obliged his request to sing the 1970 Jose Feliciano pop hit 'Feliz Navidad.'

'He was sitting there singing with us, and it was really cool,' said Austin Joseph, 16, a junior and tenor. He added the nurse told the choir members, 'you really made his day.'

Eric Dezellem, 18, a senior and a baritone, noted the compliment was a jolt of reality for the students, who take their vocal gifts for granted at times, and have even sung on MAX light rail commutes.

'You see people on the MAX who have had a really hard day,' he said. 'You might not know how, but just by singing that song you could make their day.'

Putting smiles on the faces of audience members motivates the choral students at Gresham, who have several seasonal concerts this week. Members of the Concert Choir and the Overtones, the high school's advance choral group, talked with The Outlook before a recent rehearsal about why they do what they do.

'I love this place,' said Nicole Norton, 17, a senior and soprano. She added that she's always been passionate about singing and is looking forward to performing Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' at the school concert Dec. 14.

'We always sing the 'Hallelujah Chorus' with the alumni, which is fun.'

Emma Bird, 17, a senior and a soprano, sees choral practice as one of the highlights of her day.

'I'm involved in a lot of different things throughout the school, but chorus is one of my favorites,' she said.

Jake Sundquist, 18, a senior who sings bass, plays guitar in a rock band. He said choral practice is a way to learn more formal music.

'I like to sing, and the class is really fun because of the people in it,' he says. 'It's nice to be part of a serious thing and do something different.'

And the one thing that unites the choir students besides singing? Their collective view that the TV show 'Glee' has no semblance of reality.

'We don't jump around in the cafeteria and sing to everyone,' Dezellem said, as the group laughed.

'We don't sing about our lives at the drop of a hat,' added Bird.

The choir program's concerts take place on the following dates:

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14: The Winter Concert features all five choirs in the auditorium, 1200 N. Main Ave.

• 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15: The Overtones and Concert Choir will sing at The Grotto Festival of Lights, on the corner of Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, Portland. For more information, visit

• 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18: The Overtones will join the Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland for 'The Mystery and the Glory Concert' at First Unitarian Church, 1011 S.W. 12th Ave., Portland. For more information, visit

For more information on the choirs, visit

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