McNary High School choir members practice in advance of their upcoming CD release concerts slated for Dec. 14 and 15. Below: Cover art for the new album, ‘A Season of Dreams.’ (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Last year, when Celt Kevin Walsh went to the studio to record his parts for McNary High School’s holiday CD, he already felt like a brother to the other bass singers in the choir. This year, things were different.

“It didn’t feel the same way going into the studio, but during the recording I felt the click. It was when we all melded together,” Walsh said.

The new CD, A Season of Dreams, drops this week heralded by two concerts Wednesday, Dec. 14, and Thursday, Dec. 15, at McNary. Copies of the disc will be available at the concerts for $10. Concert tickets are $5 at the door and sales start at 6 p.m. The shows begin at 7 p.m.

It’s not every high school choir that gets to produce a CD, much less two consecutive ones, but both times the experience has come with many lessons and surprises.

“The recording brings a new level of professionalism to our whole group and it helped a lot of the newer people realize how big a deal our choir members actually are,” said Trevor Mink.

Perhaps benefitting from a sophomore effort, the Celts also produced more music for the CD this year – a whopping 32 tracks up from 19 on last year’s A Season of Love. Knowing what they’re capable of impacts how the choirs move forward from this point, said Jadi Dicksa.

“Most of us want to go into the music industry. It opens our eyes to show us what we want to do, how we need to prepare and how we can be successful,” she said.

Even for those who went through it once before, the studio is a far cry from the more-or-less casual atmosphere of the McNary choir room.

“The weirdest thing is it shows you all the little things you’re doing wrong. If you’re in a live performance, you just keep going, but during recording you’ve got to crank down and get it done,” said Brittney Gilbertson.

In some ways, being in front of a microphone was more pulse-pounding than performing for a live audience, added Shannon Peters.

“We like to jump around and get excited to really emote when we’re on stage. When we were recording, it was to the point, quiet and we were all focused on getting the music out,” said Cole Flanigan.

Containing their movements proved critical in a setting where time, in the most literal sense, meant money.

“During concerts you can’t move around, in recording you couldn’t move around because the risers would squeak,” said Payton Williams.

Buckling down and hitting their takes meant less frustration for Jim Taylor, McNary’s choir director. In fact, he only ended up screaming into a trash can once.

A favorite track on the new CD for Victoria Hernandez is Johannes Brahms’ May Night.

“It was one we learned just before the state championship last year. We learned it so quickly, but we were feeling it. Just singing it nearly brings me to tears,” she said.

For Sofia Boru and Williams, My God is a Rock is the track they find most electrifying.

“It gives me goosebumps every time,” Boru said.

For Williams, who is African American, the song touches him on a deep level.

“It speaks to me because of my ancestry. [It’s the slaves’] hope, their dream that they’ll have their freedom,” he said.

After the concerts, copies of the CD will be available at the school and at the project website, www.choirproject.com, Uptown Music, 3827 River Road N., Willamette Valley Bank, 5140 River Road North, and Legacy Real Estate, 2745 Liberty St. N.