CHS choir students will ‘join voices’ with professionals

Unique concert will be held April 18 in Portland

When popular local musicians Alan Singley and Sama Dams share the stage for the first time, they will be joined by an unusual group of backup singers: The 150-voice choir from Camas High School.

“Joined Voices,” the product of this innovative collaboration, will feature nine world premiere compositions by musicians from all over the world. The performance will be held at the historic First Congregational Church in downtown Portland on Saturday, April 18 at 7 p.m.

More than a year in the making, Joined Voices is the brainchild of local singer/songwriter Alan Singley and Camas High School choir teacher Ethan Chessin, who realized that Portland boasts both a nationally renowned indie rock scene and excellent high school choirs, but that the two communities rarely interact. After being awarded a grant from the Camas Educational Foundation to connect composers with students at the suburban school, Singley and Chessin began recruiting musicians for a culminating performance.

The result, Joined Voices, will be unlike any high school choir concert – or indie rock show. Singley, an accomplished songwriter, visited Camas High School several times to give lessons on song writing and test out his ideas while writing four pieces: two settings of Gary Snyder poems, one choral arrangement of a song by the local band Point Juncture, Wash., and one wholly original work.

Chessin, a former trombonist with Portland’s MarchFourth Marching Band with a music degree from Yale, was situated to negotiate between choir and indie rock. He has performed with several local bands and choirs, but his first experience on the podium in Portland was as director of the Dahoo Chorus, an experimental rock opera choir.

Chessin is enthusiastic about this partnership.

“Portland audiences are used to an incredible variety of interesting live music,” he said. “It’s about time our high school ensembles were recognized as an extraordinary part of this musical ecosystem.”

Sama Dams has been touring extensively following the November release of their latest album, “Comfort in Doubt,” but have carved out time for rehearsals with the choir and are looking forward to performing their songs in the beautiful acoustics of Portland’s First Congregational Church.

Choir students at Camas High School have been active participants from the beginning of this project, creating their own compositions with assistance from guest artists.

To make reservations for the Joined Voices performance, visit www.joinedvoices.brownpapertickets.com.

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