The league champion Canby High School concert choir will perform their state set alongside the community’s alumni choir in two special joint concerts this week at the Canby Fine Arts Center.
Canby High School music teacher and choir director Brooks Gingerich has been leading concert choirs to the state tournament for upwards of two decades, but he said he’s particularly excited by this group’s dedication and cohesiveness.
“Their attention to detail and support of each other has been really inspiring for me,” he told the Current. “Their trust in each other is off the charts, and they work so hard to learn the music. They’re the biggest choir in Oregon, and another thing that makes us unique is the number of young guys singing.”
Many of the students in the concert choir have been involved in the program their entire Canby High School careers.
“I remember seeing the Cantalinas perform in elementary school and just admiring them so much,” sophomore alto Elizabeth Gabriel said. “I was like, I want to do that when I’m older.”
Sophomore alto Nora Cordill was the same way and said she appreciates the team chemistry of the choir.
“We’re all a family — not even just the students, but the alumni and everybody else in the community who’s involved,” Cordill said. “It’s super special, and I feel like that motivates me, along with the dedication Brooks has for us.”
Junior tenor Kai Laitinen — a standout swimmer for Canby High during the winter athletics season — also appreciates the team aspect.
“I love singing; music has always been fun, and I just have a good time,” he said. “I’m not really nervous, because I’ve been to states for a few other things. But this does feel a lot different with the team and the people I can all trust and depend on.”
Unlike her fellow sophomores, soprano Audrey Burke said she didn’t grow up dreaming or planning to make her mark on the high school music scene. She joined because some of her friends were doing it — and quickly found that she was hooked.
“From the moment I walked through that door, everybody was playing music, there were so many smiles, and it immediately felt like home to me,” she said. “It made me feel for the first time like I didn’t have to hide who I was. I could just be myself in front of everybody, and I didn’t have a lot of communities like that.”
She also spoke to the trust the choir members have in each other.
“I trust every single person in this choir,” she said. “I love every one of our songs. The amount of love and dedication we have poured into each number is really incredible. No matter how we do at states, it’s been an amazing year.”
For junior bass Quinn Benjamin, whose freshman year in the school choir took place over Zoom, the return to in-person learning and activities has been especially welcome.
“This year has been a whole different vibe, and it’s really exciting,” Benjamin said. “We’ve been working as hard. Because we are all a family: No matter your race, your religion, your biases, your orientation — none of that affects the magic in this room. The only thing we care about is the music.”
Senior baritone and bass Owen Lewis has been in choir all four years at Canby High School and is one of the leaders of this year’s group. He said Gingerich empowers his seniors and others to take a lead role in mentoring and organizing the other choir members.
“Brooks puts a lot of emphasis on having the seniors leading sections and teaching the music,” he said. “I think it’s really cool. He’s one of the most influential people in my life right now. The music he has brought into my life and the experiences he has helped me live through are really amazing.”
This week’s concerts will also feature the talents of the Canby High School alumni choir, formed by the voices of former choral students and led by Brooks Gingerich and his uncle, Tom Gingerich, who taught choir from 1977 to 2008, when his nephew picked up the torch.
Tom estimates that there are thousands of singers who have sung under their direction over the years.
“We began rehearsals in 2014 with about 60 singers, including three generations from the Ken Kauffman family,” Tom said of the alumni choir. “Today, there are 90 participants, including some students from the advanced concert choir. Singing provides purpose and pleasure for a lifetime.”
The alumni choir performs choral masterworks from the classical repertoire. It begins practice in January, meeting once a week and culminating with the April concerts.
“This year’s alumni choir is serving as an advocacy group to restore elementary and middle school choirs that were terminated during the Covid pandemic, Tom added. “We welcome any encouragement the community might offer to the school board members and administration.”
The concerts will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, and Friday, April 28. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available at Cutsforth’s Market in advance or at the door. All proceeds benefit the Canby High School choral program.
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