Choir makes it 2 in a row with state title

By Dick Mason, The Observer May 15, 2013 12:15 pm

The La Grande High School A Capella Choir won its second straight Class 4A state title last weekend in Newberg at George Fox University. (Submitted photo)
The La Grande High School A Capella Choir won its second straight Class 4A state title last weekend in Newberg at George Fox University. (Submitted photo)

La Grande High School choir posts impressive totals in winning another title 

The 27 members of the La Grande High School A Capella Choir tell stories in harmony. 

“We try to be expressive and sell a story with every song,” said LHS A Capella Choir Director Kevin Durfee. “We try to communicate musically, we make it our signature.”

The LHS A Capella made a signature statement during its performance last weekend at the 2013 OSAA State Choir Championships in Newberg. LHS was the story of the competition, winning its second straight Class 4A title at the competition conducted at George Fox University.

LHS A Capella Choir member Brian Bump will never forget what it was like to hear it announced that La Grande placed first.

“It was really a rush,” Bump said.

LHS choir member Alia Orantes said the group was so excited when they heard the news, she was accidentally hit in the head by a celebrating classmate.

Things got even more exciting for LHS after the announcement. 

LHS choir members soon learned that their total score of 337 points was the highest of any of the high school choral groups at the competition. This was noteworthy since the state championship competition was for high schools in all classifications, including 6A, the state’s largest high schools.

West Salem High School, which has about 1,400 students, won the Class 6A title with 331 points. 

LHS’s total of 337 included a sight reading score of 56, the highest of any school in any division. In sight reading, choirs had to sing pieces of written music they had not seen before. They had to perform several pieces after seeing each for only a minute and a longer one after viewing it for two minutes. No talking was allowed while choirs looked at their music before singing. 

Durfee said LHS’s performance in sight reading was heartening because it means they understand music. 

“They are musically literate,” Durfee said. 

One judge told Durfee that he thought LHS was unquestionably the best at sight reading of all schools in all divisions. 

LHS choir members felt more pressure at state this year because the title won in 2012 raised expectations.

“Last year we did not expect to win. We were loose and had a good time,” Durfee said. “This time, we knew we had a chance and were tense and uptight. There was a lot of pressure to do well.”

Alina Clemens, who performed a duet with Noelle Goodenberger, said she felt as tense as anyone.

“I was nervous. I was shaking so much I was vibrating,” Clemens said.

Durfee said that Clemens’ nerves were not noticeable, noting that the duet she performed with Goodenberger generated many comments because of its high quality.

LHS was dominant at state even though it had one of the smallest choirs with 27 members, leaving little margin for error.

“When there are fewer of us, we have to have better technique,” LHS junior Molly Strand said. 

In winning the Class 4A division, which is for schools with 325 to 700 students, LHS, which has 568 students, finished 16 points ahead of runner-up Klamath Falls. Estacada placed third, Central was fourth and Baker took fifth. 

Durfee said the success is a credit to a work ethic that is second to none and his students’ high expectations.

“They are demanding of themselves and me,” Durfee said.

He said his students correct his mistakes and ask that specific problems be addressed. Still, they express enormous respect for Durfee. 

 “We wouldn’t be anything without him,” said choir member Eloise Wright.