May 06, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

What is life like at the top?

The 57 members of La Grande High Schools A Capella Choir are about to find out.

The A Capella Choir won the class 3A title at the Oregon School Activities Association State Choir Championships Friday in Corvallis.

I am very proud of how they did. They did an awesome job, said Michael Frasier, LHSs choir director.

They finished with 336 points to edge second place Central High School of Independence by five points. Central had won the previous two state titles.

The Dalles placed third with 310 points and Seaside and Henley tied for fourth with 309 points.

All choirs were evaluated on how well they performed a series of songs they had selected and on sight reading. LHS received the top scores for both singing and sight reading.

The choir first sang the following songs:

Cantate Domino, a sacred Latin song.

Abendlied, a German song from the 1860s.

Duerme Negrito, a Venezuelan folk song.

Elijah Rock, an African- American spiritual.

Balia De Sehu, a song from the island of Aruba off the coast of Venezuela.

LHS received scores of 98, 97 and 92 from three judges based on the performance of the three songs.

The judges gave the choir high marks for things such as its tone quality and its visual presentation.

They looked like they were having fun and the audience could tell, Frasier said.

One judge wrote that the performance of LHSs choir during its five songs was nearly flawless.

The sight reading phase followed the performance of the five songs the choir had to perform music its members had not seen before. They were given sheet music and had to sing it two minutes later. Frasier could talk to the students but they could not talk among themselves before singing.

The sight reading was the most stressful part of the competition, Frasier said.

La Grandes choir received 49 out of a possible 60 points in sight-reading, the most of any 3A school.

Sight-reading competition is conducted to make sure that students are learning more than songs, but skills that will make them better musicians.

The state competition was conducted at the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University.

Frasier said that LHS was expected to place high because the schools choirs traditionally had done well at the 4A level. Until this school year, LHS had always competed at that level, which is for schools with more than 824 students. LHS moved to the 3A level this school year because of declining enrollment. The 3A level is for schools with 301 to 824 students.

At all competitions, Frasier gives his students this advice.

I always tell my students, We shouldnt sing for trophies. We should sing for the joy of singing and be as entertaining and professional as possible, Frasier said.

If we sing to the best of our ability, the trophies will take care of themselves.

The 4A state choir championships were conducted Saturday in Corvallis. Sprague, directed by Russ Christensen, a La Grande High School graduate, tied South Salem for the 4A crown. Christensen did his student teaching at LHS in the late 1970s.