Camas High choir teams up with indie-rock composer

Students to perform with rock band in Portland on Friday, April 13

timestamp icon
category icon Schools
Kelly Pratt, composer, and Ethan Chessin, Camas High School choir teacher, conduct 200 Camas High students during rehearsal for the upcoming concert where students will collaborate with the rock band Bright Moments that will open at 6:30 p.m., Friday, April 13, at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), 15 N.E. Hancock St., Portland. (Contributed photos courtesy of Alicia J. Rose Photography)

The Camas High School choir has teamed up with indie-rock composer Kelly Pratt and Young Audiences of Oregon and Southwest Washington, an arts education nonprofit, to create an hour-long performance that breaks away from the traditional choir concert by including rock band Bright Moments to accompany the voices of the 200 Camas High School students.

The doors to the concert open at 6:30 p.m., Friday, April 13, at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), 15 N.E. Hancock St., Portland. The tickets will cost $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Pratt, a multi-instrumentalist composer and arranger in Portland, who has worked with bands such as Arcade Fire, Coldplay and Passion Pit, wrote the music for the concert.

Ethan Chessin, Camas High choir teacher, said the concert takes on a theme of human progress and the idea that the more things change the more they stay the same.

“The show looks at all of human history and examines the progress that’s been made, good and bad, and highlights the crucial juncture society is at and the variety of possibilities for the future,” Chessin said. “It also shows that the students who are singing on stage are going to lead us in that venture and the show wraps leaving the audience with a sense of hope and joy.”

Camas High sophomore Mallory Kellner said the concert will be out of the zone of what anyone is expecting and the multiple components of the show will have audience members thinking.

“I think (the show) will make them appreciate art,” Camas High junior Camille Madrigal said. “Especially with younger generations a lot more because they see what we’re capable of and how they can enjoy it.”

Madrigal said she’s enjoyed being a part of the concert because it’s not a traditional choir concert.

“We’re collaborating with someone and so it’s not just our own normal choral music, it’s something that someone made for us to sing with each other,” she added. “And to sing with the artist and the band, for me, that’s my favorite part because we are doing a professional concert.”

Chessin said that the audience will be able to see the sheer human magnitude and power that exists when people work together to accomplish something.

Madrigal said that each song composed by Pratt for the show has its own story that works together to tell the story of life that will hopefully strike a chord with audience members who could relate.

“What I love is watching my 200 students with all their passion and quirks singing and dancing — seeing such a massive humanity doing something joyful together — and that’s what impacts the audience,” Chessin said.

When people think of choir, they often think of it as a hobby, Kellner said.

“(This concert) will show people that we do mean business and that we’re here to do something and this is our performance,” she added.

Chessin said that this show is also special from a student’s perspective because it’s an inside out experience, meaning, Chessin normally is the person who does the booking and publicity for the event, but the students got an inside look on the business aspect and took control.

The goal of the project was to have students meet professionals and expose them to career opportunities within the industry, Chessin said. The students met with talent buyers, publicists and videographers.

“A lot of people when they think about music careers, it’s just about either doing music videos or making the music yourself,” Madrigal said. “We learned about the different job opportunities out there and so we don’t have to go into such a narrow job market. It gives you more thought for your future.”

A portion of the project that Kellner said she enjoyed was learning the language and format of how to write a press release.

Kellner said the project allows for students to prove that their age does not take away from the project.

“I think it just goes back to the theme that just because we are young, it doesn’t mean that we’re not real and we’re here and we’re in the art scene,” she said. “We aren’t just a high school choir. There will be people in the audience that aren’t just our parents.”

“The students have really wowed me in their work ethic and contributing even outside of the school day to create extra videos and press releases, because it speaks to them and means something to them,” Chessin said.

To tie the concert back into the curriculum, there’s a sense that the students who are performing are much more than just students, Chessin said.

“They are the promoters, bookers, talent buyers and videographers,” he said. “That’s what I want everyone to see when they see them perform. I want them to see their full humanity and full power and potential.”