The natural world comes alive with music in Battle Ground students’ virtual performance


Prairie High School’s choir hosts Sounds Of Earth a Virtual Variety Show

BATTLE GROUND — As spring makes its way around the nation, recently returned high school choir students could lament over the lack of concert opportunities, and merely practice when they can. 

Not in Battle Ground. 

The Prairie High School Treble Choir decided to choose ingenuity and make the most of what they had. The result rivals the beauty of the real thing. 

The virtual concert “Sounds Of Earth a Virtual Variety Show” premiered on YouTube yesterday evening to four dozen live viewers and many excited students. Within the nature-themed melodic medley we saw soloists, collaborations and talented musical performances. 

It was one for the books.

Members of the Prairie Treble Choir sing together via video compilation for their spring concert. Photo courtesy of BGPS
Members of the Prairie Treble Choir sing together via video compilation for their spring concert. Photo courtesy of BGPS

“It’s really interesting because everything has to be in your head,” said choir student Carley Ray. “Whether that comes to music or the future audience that you’re going to have. So it’s a lot of just trying to imagine what it would feel like to be in front of people, again, and remember how it feels to sing with a bunch of other people.”

In lieu of a live in-person concert which is still a ways off with the pandemic, the students spent the last several weeks filming videos of songs and the beauty of the natural world. With the help of choir teacher Douglas Orofino, accompanist Jennifer Creek-Hughes and video editor Andrew Irish, they compiled the 45 minute long show for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

Douglas Orofino, PHS Choir Teacher
Douglas Orofino, PHS Choir Teacher

“One of my classes has done two pieces of music that they learned, each choir in a normal concert year we learn three pieces and then usually one altogether so, you know, some kids would be learning as many as six or seven songs if they were in a couple of choirs,” Orofino said. “But this year because of the challenges we’ve stuck to smaller numbers of music so each class does one song, put together in that virtual format.”

With many songs focusing on the glory of the outdoors and several poetry set to music, we saw performances from several genres but with a similar theme. Student filmed much of the project themselves, and recorded solo performances with Orofino and Irish later synced, equalized and stitched together.

The school commissioned the use of a special online platform for Orofino early in the year, so students could upload audio files and continue learning during COVID-19. Of the four main group songs in last night’s performance, each took around 10-12 hours of time to edit. 

“Since we can’t get that individual feedback from Mr. Orofino, we have to be very confident in ourselves, and we have to be very independent when we’re learning,” Ray said. “So we have to strive really hard and put in a lot of work and practice, in order to make sure that we know what we are doing. I would definitely prefer when we can hear each other and sing in front of people and feel that energy, but anything at this point is worth it and a blessing.”

The students dedicated the show to raising awareness for the Columbia Land Trust; a nonprofit that seeks to protect many natural resources in the pacific northwest. The Trust takes a relationship-based approach to conserving habitat, and to date manages more than 50,000 acres in Washington and Oregon. 

“Our future is dependent upon clean air and water and sustenance of our natural resources,” Glenn Lamb, the Executive Director of the Columbia Land Trust, said in a release. “Everyone can take action to conserve the very nature of the northwest. We urge everyone to follow the lead of these young singers in stepping forward on behalf of the Earth.” 

The PHS choir is joined by folk group Misty Mamas and elementary students from Maple Grove Primary School for their finale song. Photo courtesy of BGPS
The PHS choir is joined by folk group Misty Mamas and elementary students from Maple Grove Primary School for their finale song. Photo courtesy of BGPS

The choir students also partnered with local folk group the Misty Mamas and some children from the Maple Grove Primary School. The three groups came together on the centuries old song story “The Fox,” as the show’s finale.

“At the beginning of the year, all I could really see was the loss of the things that we were not going to be able to do right and all should get to what’s going to happen,” Orofino said. “After getting started and kind of getting our feet under us, I started to see some possibilities for some different ways of doing things. We’ve been able to work together with a middle school, we worked together with the college in our first concert. We’ve done a lot of collaborative things that normally would have been a little bit harder to organize and orchestrate.” 

Orofino and Ray are excited to see what the future holds as more pandemic-era restrictions are loosened and more singing can once again commence. Students are currently getting ready to return five days a week, and as the weather improves, maybe even sing outside. 

Be sure to check out the full performance video linked in this story, and visit the Battle Ground Public Schools YouTube channel for more choir videos.  

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