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Gresham singers win top honors

Elite choir, 'Overtones,' takes home awards from Texas festival
by: Contributed photo, The Overtone’s pose with their prize, from the front row left, James Dezellem, Kayla Molina, Emmanuel Henried, Janine Kirstein (director), Emily Mower, Daniel Gilbertson and Christine Greenhalgh. Second row from left, Leslie Young, Sam Luty and Christie Smith. Third row from left, Giorgia Turc, Ali Sturges, Hannah Rice, Alexis Monnie, Amanda Lewis, Laze’L McGill, Celeste Godin and Ben Vredevelt. Fourth row from left, Alex Fortune, Andrew Serino, Jessica Hubert, Andy Van Zant, Mickey Inns, Bo Baskoro, Cody Falkosky. Back row from left, Leif Tjaden, Andrew Fessler, Phil Serino, Kris Woods, Ben Finley, Cheldon Chriestenson, Matt Miller and Brittney Weissenbuehler. Not pictured is Emily Slayton.

The city that remembers the Alamo might just remember The Overtones.

Gresham High School's 32-member elite choral group beat out more than two dozen other high school choral groups from around the country, earning Outstanding Choral Group Award at the Heritage Music Festival in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday and Saturday, March 23-24.

The Overtones also took top honors in the Chamber Choirs division and earned an Adjudicator Award for earning 97 out a possible 100 points, said Janine Kirstein, the group's director.

Meanwhile, Daniel Gilbertson, a Gresham junior, and a first tenor in The Overtones, won an Outstanding Soloist award. Daniel said he sang the introduction to the Scottish tune 'Loch Lomond,' and then the rest of the group joined in. Daniel said the honor took him by surprise.

'I didn't know that there was an award, so I thought that that was really cool,' he said.

He added that he had no stage fright when the spotlight was on him as he sang the beginning notes of the Scottish tune.

'We've performed it like a bunch of times, so it's not really that big a deal anymore,' he said.

He added that he likes Celtic music, so the song stirs his soul.

'It's a really cool song,' he said. 'It's just got a really cool rhythm to it.'

During the festival, The Overtones also performed Bach's 'Alleluia'; Brahms' 'O Schone Nacht' ('O Lovely Night'); 'A Boy and a Girl' by Eric Whitacre; and 'The Battle of Jericho,' a traditional spiritual arranged by Moses Hogan.

Kirstein said The Overtones faced some stiff competition at the festival, and said she was most pleased with the Outstanding Choral Group Award.

'We beat the show choirs that danced - we beat the jazz choirs,' she said with a smile.

Her students said that they enjoyed the trip to San Antonio. Emmanuel Henreid, a junior and a tenor, said he liked seeing the Alamo and other San Antonio sights for the first time. He noted that he dreams of traveling to more competitions and even singing at Carnegie Hall someday. He was particularly pleased The Overtones did so well in Texas.

'You don't really know how the judges are going to score because they're from different states,' he said.

Jessica Hubert, a junior and a second soprano, said she was excited to be part of The Overtones. She's been hearing about Gresham High School's choral program for years, she said.

'You always read in the paper, like, Gresham High School choir is so good, so it's a privilege to be a part of it,' she said. 'To be part of a choir that makes such an amazing sound is, like, way awesome. Outside of (rehearsal), everybody is goofy and crazy, but when we're focused, the sounds we make are outstanding.'

She added that she particularly enjoys learning different styles of music.

'It's like different personalities,' she said.

Kirstein attributed her group's success to its members' constant vocal practice on both a group and individual basis.

'We're just kind of setting the bar high for ourselves and doing difficult music,' she said.

On that note, Daniel offered advice to any aspiring soloist who might want to earn an award as he did.

'Practice - the more you do, the more comfortable you'll be with it,' he said.

Emmanuel similarly observed that The Overtones do as well as they do because of their constant practice.

'We kind of accomplish a lot in the few days we have with each other,' he said.