Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Clark County musicians light up The Grotto



‘Nothing will get you in the Christmas spirit more than The Grotto,” says Vancouver guitarist Jay Koder.

He ought to know.

Koder said this will be the 20th year that he and his musician friends will entertain at the Christmas Festival of Lights at The Grotto in Portland. He’ll be there for an hourlong set at 8 p.m. Thursday. The performance is a benefit and helps raise money for food for hungry families.

And Friday and Saturday nights, several Clark County choirs will entertain.

The festival’s website calls it “the largest Christmas choral festival in the world.”

Koder, a Hudson’s Bay High School graduate, has been a pro for 35 years. He taught guitar at the age of 17 at Clark College.

His set list for the festival includes his song, “Heart of Christmas.”

Koder has played with dozens of big-name musicians, including Steve Miller. He played on Miller’s recording of “Wide River.”

He said he’s just back from the Caribbean, touring with singer Gino Vannelli.

A month ago, he was on stage with Herbie Hancock at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Koder also has a new band called Soulmates.

Joining Koder at The Grotto will be Clark Bondy on saxophone, Ted Swenson on bass, Anthony Jones on drums and Associate Pastor Jason Ritchie of Crossroads Community Church on piano.

Koder will play a guitar made for him by the Twelfth Fret Custom Guitar Shop in Portland. Its name: the Bird-caster.

Koder said his biggest influence as a guitar player has been Howard Roberts, who died in 1992. Koder said Roberts was “the most recorded guitarist in history.”

Koder said the festival is “a blast” with its petting zoo, hot chocolate, children’s activities and strolling carolers. By the way, there are more than 500,000 lights.

On Friday night, these groups are set to play: St. Joseph Parish Choir, Vancouver Madrigal Singers, Heritage Concert Choir, Vancouver USA Singers, and Union High School Choir. On Saturday, the schedule calls for Evergreen High School Advanced Women’s Choir and Evergreen High School Chamber Choir.

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— Dave Kern

Contractor’s book relates funny stories of DIY repairs

The simplest do-it-yourself home improvements can sometimes lead to surprising consequences says Jerry Hibbs, 56, of Vancouver.

Hibbs has written a book based on real problems gleaned from more than 40 years of experience as a general contractor for Hibbs Construction. “The Hilarious Adventures of the Home Handyman” is loosely structured around the misadventures of a few neighbors who engage in projects ranging from the remodeling of a basement to painting the house.

It offers a series of anecdotes describing the seemingly endless trips to the hardware store and the dawning realization that some jobs are better left to the professionals. The characters are fictional, but based on people from the Seattle, Portland and Vancouver areas.

“Mostly it’s a mess, but these guys have a lot of fun being the home handyman,” says Hibbs. “They try, but often mess up their projects, something every professional contractor has seen many times.”

The 178-page book, self-published by CreateSpace, is currently out of print. It is expected to be available in a few weeks for $11.95 at, Hibbs said.

— Ruth Zschomler

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Ruth Zschomler, 360-735-4530, or email