Camas native to play benefit concert for CHS choir

Nationally renowned pianist Gregory Partain will perform Monday, March 13

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Renowned pianist and 1978 Camas High graduate Gregory Partain will perform a piano recital March 13, at the Joyce Garver Theater to benefit the Camas High School choir's 2024 tour to New York City. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Partain)

Nationally renowned pianist and award-winning composer Gregory Partain is returning to his hometown of Camas to help raise funds for the Camas High School choir.

Partain will perform a piano recital benefitting the CHS choir at 7 p.m. Monday, March 13, at the newly renovated Joyce Garver Theater, 1500 N.E. Garfield St., Camas.

“I am excited to have an opportunity to give back to a school and community that gave so much to me in my formative years as a musician,” Partain said. “Camas has a unique love for music and arts. This community helped foster a love of music early in my life. I am honored to return and perform in Camas, even more so with recital donations benefiting the next generation of Camas musicians.”

A 1978 Camas High graduate, Partain said his four years at Camas High School — especially under the direction of then-Camas High choir teacher Joyce Garver – “helped put (him) on the path to becoming a professional musician.”

“Joyce Garver gave 110 percent and inspired us to do likewise,” Partain told The Post-Record. “She exposed us to incredible music and taught us how to give it the care and commitment such music deserves.”

Now a music professor and director of creative intelligence at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, Partain has, according to the university, “during his 24 years on the concert stage, performed throughout the United States and overseas in Germany, Polan, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Russia and Greece.”

On March 13, the acclaimed pianist returns to Camas, where he lived with his parents, Lee and Diane Partain, from second grade through high school, to help other Camas musicians explore their passion for performing.

Runyan’s Jewelers in Camas and Classic Pianos in Portland are covering the costs associated with Partain’s recital, which means all donations from the March 13 concert will directly benefit the CHS choir’s 2024 trip to New York City.

In the 15 years that CHS choir director Ethan Chessin has been leading local choir students, the 2024 New York trip is the first time he will travel on a plane with his students.

“This will stretch us far further than we’ve ever been stretched before,” Chessin said of the choir’s fundraising efforts throughout the next year. “We have already submitted six grants to local organizations for curriculum development … and the money from the concert is going toward the expenses associated with the tour. We want to make sure every Camas student has the chance to participate.”

Chessin and the 150 students in his four CHS choirs are working with Portland writer, composer, performer and Torah teacher Alicia Jo Rabins, who is, according to her website, “the creator and performer of ‘Girls in Trouble,’ an indie-folk song cycle about the complicated lives of Biblical women with accompanying curriculum, and ‘A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff,’ which began as a one-woman chamber-rock opera and is now an award-winning independent feature film currently on the festival circuit.”

Chessin said Rabins has written a musical-theatrical piece to be performed by the Camas choir students, Rabins and her band in Camas, Portland and New York City.

“Part of the reason for going to New York is that Alicia has connections and a potential audience there,” Chessin said.

And the city’s deep connection to Jewish Americans and the Jewish culture — a big part of what the choir students are studying this year while they work with Rabins — adds to the appeal of the tour.

“There will be so many opportunities (in New York City) for my students to learn more about the (Jewish) culture, see theatrical cultural productions and be in the midst of the (Jewish) community,” Chessin said.

The Camas choir director said he enjoys opening his students’ minds to the culture behind various musical influences. In 2022, his students worked with a gospel choir in Portland and performed with gospel choir backup bands.

“They connected on a deeper level with that community,” Chessin said, “and that is the goal with (working with Rabins) as well — engaging with the culture behind the artist.”

As for Partain, he recalls traveling with his Camas High choir to Canada as “an amazing experience.”

“With our shared love of music and everyone working toward a common purpose, the camaraderie and deep friendships we formed were incredible,” the pianist said, adding that his choir director, Joyce Garver – for whom the Garver Theater is named — “exposed (her students) to incredible music and taught us how to give it the care and commitment such music deserves.”

“I see the same chemistry and values at work today in (Chessin’s) CHS choir program,” Partain added. “He’s getting truly remarkable results.”

The March 13 piano recital is free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged and will benefit the CHS choir’s NYC trip.

Can’t make the concert but want to help the choir? Donate online at wa-cam