They came. They sang. They conquered. That was the story as the Canby High School concert choir claimed their first-ever state championship with a pitch-perfect performance in the OSAA Choir State Championships at Oregon State University Friday.
While Canby High School’s choral program has been prominent locally, regionally and even on a statewide level for years, this is the school’s first championship since the OSAA officially recognized the competition in 1987.
The Cougs have been state runners-up three times: in 2014 (tied with Sprague) and 2015, under current director Brooks Gingerich, and in 2007 under his uncle and longtime predecessor, Tom Gingerich.
“Yes, what an epic weekend,” Brooks Gingerich told the Current. “I’m very thrilled with the whole experience. These singers have been working so hard at this music, and for them to peak at OSU is amazing.”
Despite the school’s drop-down to 5A this year, Canby boasted the largest choir in the state and has been working on its performance routine since January.
The set included five selections: “Jeremiah’s Fire” by Rollo Dilworth, “Domine Ad Adjuvandum” by Gottfried Homilius, “Indonana” by Michael Barrett and Raif Schmitt, “Deus Ex Machina” by Jakub Neske, and an original composition by a local classical musician.
Soloists included Liam Marble, Grey Bell, Jenna Schmidt, Shelia Stearns and Taylor Wohlers. Matt Solem and Kaeden Eide provided backing drums and tambourine, respectively.
“The amount of sectionals, practice videos, laughs, tears and sweat poured into this set is remarkable,” Gingerich said. “Our music has taken on a life of its own, and our love for our third song, ‘The Last Words of Christ,’ composed by alumni Becky Stager, really brought an intensity and beauty that transformed the whole set.”
Canby’s performance at the LaSells Stewart Center Friday was truly spellbinding, as they were the only choir — among all schools, 1A-6A — to receive a superior rating, denoting at least a 90 from each of the three judges and above a 52 in sight reading.
The Cougs blew those benchmarks out of the water, with scores of 96, 98 and 95 — the highest totals awarded by each of the three judges at the competition — and a 55 in sight reading, which was also the highest of any participating school.
The Cougs’ winning score, 344, was the second-highest registered by a 5A school since 2007, when the classification was created by the OSAA.
“I’m very excited that they got the highest sight reading score from the entire weekend,” Gingerich said. “It takes a ton of failure, patience and grit to read that well, and it’s so satisfying for their efforts to hit that high note.”
Gingerich particularly relished the achievement for his seniors, he said.
They are experiencing a “normal” school and competition experience for the first time after a freshman year derailed by Covid-19, a sophomore year in which learning and choir practice took place primarily over Zoom, and a junior year in a hybrid format in which many restrictions were still in place.
“I’m looking forward to these final weeks with my seniors, whose experience of high school has been incredibly unique, and I’m so glad they get a legit feeling of triumph over the last three years,” he said.
The Canby High School concert choir’s performance is available on YouTube. They will also perform in the school’s spring concerts at 7 p.m. May 24 and 25 at the Canby Fine Arts Center.
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