Oregon Chorale's Jason Sabino embarks on second year as artistic director of the organization.

COURTESY PHOTO - The Oregon Chorale will present two concerts at St. Matthew Catholic Church this weekend.Oregon Chorale December concerts

Christmas with the Chorale: Comfort and Joy

Saturday, Dec. 2, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m.

St. Matthew Catholic Church, 475 S.E. Third Ave., Hillsboro. Tickets:

  • Oregon Symphony String Ensemble, with Oregon Chorale as guests

    Friday, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.

    Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St., Hillsboro. A benefit for the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council. Tickets:

  • Comfort and Joy concert with the Oregon Symphony

    Sunday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Tickets:

  • For Jason Sabino, the Oregon Chorale is family.

    The Chorale, based in Hillsboro, was founded in 1985 by Bernie Kuehn.

    Kuehn retired and Sabino has started his second year as the group's artistic director.COURTESY PHOTO - Jason Sabino

    In his first year, Sabino jumped in head first, choosing challenging music for the ensemble, and setting big goals for the group in the years ahead.

    He took some time reflect on his first year as director and give a sneak peek into the season ahead.

    First, Sabino said, he's come to feel he's a part of a family. Some members of the 70-voice ensemble have been with the Chorale since its inception (originally named the Washington County Chorale). Sabino's wife, Jenn sings in the group. And the couple's daughter, Lilia was born last March. Jenn's midwife and Lilia's pediatrician are also singers in the Chorale. "It really is a testament to how much of a family this is," Sabino said.

    Last season, Sabino directed the choir in several master works. In March, the chorale sang Henryk Górecki's "Miserere," a 35-minute a cappella piece dedicated to those who suffered from political oppression in 1980s Poland, and their bold response to strife. "It's all in one key, it's slow," said Sabino, and it was a perfect challenge for him, the singers and the audience. Speakers from the local Polish community helped connect the music with their personal stories.

    In June, Sabino and company sang Maurice Duruflé's "Requiem, Op. 9," and Morten Lauridsen's "Lux Aeterna," which premiered in Portland 20 years ago.

    As luck would have it, Laurdisen was in town and was able to conduct a workshop for the choir. "He asked where the concert was being held," Sabino said of Lauridsen. It was at Bethel Congregational Church in Beaverton. "That's where I went as a kid," Lauridsen said. Again, Sabino said, "It feels like family. It was meant to be."

    Looking to the future, Sabino wants to raise the Chorale's profile by doing more community outreach. "I want to grow the organization — do more musically and for the community," he said.

    He plans to welcome guest choirs, including local high school groups, to sing with the Chorale.

    The group's winter concerts will happen on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2 and 3.

    On Dec. 17, the Chorale will sing with the Oregon Symphony in "Comfort and Joy: A Classical Christmas."

    And, of course, continuing to challenge himself and his singers tops his priority list. Next June, the Chorale will perform Schubert's "Mass in A minor" alongside a full orchestra, paid for by a grant from the Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council.

    Coming in as a newbie, Sabino, 29 (he notes he's younger than the Chorale itself), was careful to consider, "What makes them who they are? I didn't start this thing. I inherited it. I want to honor that," he said.

    Kathy Fuller
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