Emma Perry and many of the other 38 members of La Grande High School’s A Capella Choir recently endured five seconds of high anxiety.

The scene was the concluding ceremony of the recent class 4A OSAA Choir Championship in Corvallis. The fifth, fourth, third and second place finishers had been read and the name of the winner was up next. La Grande High School’s name had not been called, which jolted Perry.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. We either placed first or we didn’t place at all,’” the sophomore said.

About five seconds later, Perry’s fears were swept away by joy when it was announced that LHS had won its second state title in as many years.

“We ran onto the stage and started high-fiving and hugging each other,” said choir member John VanderZanden.

The members of the choir had gone into the state championship competition relaxed and confident because of the focus they had placed on preparation.

“They went in not thinking of details but (of) making beautiful music,” said choir volunteer Kascie Durfee, the wife of director Kevin Durfee.

LHS finished with 332 points, easily outdistancing runner-up McLoughlin High School, which judges awarded 292 points. Cascade was third with 288 points, followed by Mololla with 284 and Estacada with 274.

Singing without accompaniment, the LHS choir performed five songs at state: “A Maiden Is in a Ring,” “The Battle of Jericho,” “I Am Not Yours,” “Mato del Anima Soto” (a Spanish number) and “Christus Factus Est” (a Latin song). The songs were selected by Kevin Durfee after he evaluated the talents of his choir earlier in the school year.

“We wanted to exploit our strengths,” Durfee said.

This year’s repertoire was selected to help LHS take better advantage of the higher number of boys in the choir. Thirty-three percent of the choir members are boys, more than in many past years.

The competition was conducted at the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University in Corvallis. This was a shift from the previous decade when the class 4A choir championships took place at Bauman Auditorium at George Fox University in Newberg. Durfee said the acoustics are better at Bauman Auditorium than at the LaSells Stewart Center. He explained that sound does not reverberate well at the LaSells Stewart Center.

Choir member David Durbin agrees.

“There was dead space at OSU,” the senior said.

The LHS students did not focus on the less than ideal acoustics but instead, at the urging of the Durfees, concentrated on enjoying themselves.

“We made a point of getting in there and having fun. The (first place) trophy was the cherry on top,” said sophomore Gage Brogoitti, whose mother Karrine Brogoitti is publisher of The Observer.

It was easy for the students to have a good time because they like one another’s company.

“It is a tight group,” said the director.

See complete story in Friday's Observer