Bits 'n' Pieces: Union High choir chosen for elite honor

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In the choir director world, nothing is bigger than the American Choral Director's Association national conference.

So, having the Union High School Chamber Choir picked for the elite honor of singing at the Dallas conference in March is a huge coup for Mikkel Iverson.

Iverson, 56, of east Vancouver, has been a choir director for 35 years, including 17 years at Evergreen High School and six years at Union. In that time, he's never had one of his groups picked -- and neither has any other choral director in Clark County.

"It's the first time a Clark County choir has been selected for this since it began in 1968," Iverson said. "And we're only the third high school in Washington ever chosen."

At the meeting, 30 choirs from across the nation are selected to perform, three in each of 10 categories. Union High School was selected for the mixed choir category.

"It really is a feather in our cap," Iverson said.

The next step is to pay for the trip, which could cost upwards of $40,000 for Iverson and the 43 students. As part of that effort, the school has hired ComedySportz, a family-friendly improv comedy group from Portland, to perform on Jan. 26 at the campus auditorium, 6201 N.W. Friberg-Strunk St. in Camas. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. will include a raffle and other fundraising efforts.

Tickets are available for $10 through the choir's website at Union Choir.

"That's actually a good deal because it costs $15 for tickets to see them in Portland, and here it's only $10," Iverson said.

The choir hopes to sell out the 625-seat auditorium to help pay for the trip.

"We're really excited," Iverson said. "(Going to Dallas) is a bucket-list performance for any choral director. It's maybe a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

— Sue Vorenberg

Yacolt man honored as town's first poet laureate

Poet Patrick Knowles wasn't visited by the muse until he was visited by brain cancer in 1991 -- and beat it.

"I see things differently," he said. "I put words together differently. The gratitude of life gave me this ability."

Since then Knowles, 57, has also suffered two strokes, and he still battles alcoholism. "Some of my poetry is about that, too. I beat cancer, but I know I'll never beat alcoholism. It's always there," said Knowles.

Knowles' work has earned recognition on the website http://poetry.com. On Jan. 7, the modest Knowles, who sometimes searches for words when speaking but said he finds them easily when writing, was named Yacolt's poet laureate by the town council there.

"He writes from the heart. He writes about the struggles that he's had," said Patricia Thomas, a Clark County Arts commissioner who lives in Yacolt. "He is very anxious to help others."

Thomas said she pressed the town council to bestow its first-ever poet laureate title upon Knowles, who will conduct readings and workshops during the coming year. Those events are to be announced; Knowles and Thomas hope to hold them at the former jail and town hall that's now the Yacolt Library Express.

"We're going to invite poets from all over Clark County," said Thomas.

— Scott Hewitt

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.