Bits 'n' Pieces: 'Annual choir' adds rare 2nd performance to schedule

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photoHoward Meharg

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It’s a migration of voices.

Since 2009, some of the Northwest’s best voices have flocked to Clark County to sing as Chor Anno.

Dubbed “the annual choir” by director and conductor Howard Meharg, the Vancouver-based group’s 26 members — most who direct their own choirs — typically perform only once every year.

Blink and you might miss them.

“Normally, we sing one weekend a year,” Meharg said. This year’s concerts will be Saturday and Sunday in Vancouver, Camas and Wilsonville, Ore. Meharg lives in Hazel Dell.

Distance keeps rehearsals to a minimum, as members of Chor Anno come from all over the region: Longview, Walla Walla and as far out as Wyoming. The group meets once in the spring, and then again at a summer retreat to practice. They do not see each other again until performance time.

This time around, the “annual choir” will be adding another performance to its schedule, as one of 20 groups invited to sing at the Northwest Divisional Conference of the American Choral Directors Association in Seattle in March. The national organization has about 22,000 members. Chor Anno will be performing during the opening keynote evening concert.

“Since most of the members of Chor Anno are choral directors, it’s a bit daunting to be on the ‘other side of the podium’ and singing for one’s colleagues,” Meharg wrote in an email. “On the other hand, we know that we may never sing before a more knowledgeable and appreciative audience.”

After 50 years directing choirs, his lasting connections with former colleagues and students from his days teaching in Kelso, Castle Rock and Longview have resulted in a wide pool of talent.

“Not one single person has auditioned for this group; they were either people I knew and knew their capabilities, or they came on recommendations from others in the group,” Meharg said.

Many members of the Chor Anno lead choirs in schools, churches and colleges around the area. Others are vocal teachers and perform with other ensembles as soloists. Bruce Browne, formerly of Portland State University’s choral program, will be guest conducting three pieces during the concerts.

The diverse program will include performances of “Ubi Caritas et Amor” by Paul Mealor, a song commissioned by Prince William for his marriage to Kate Middleton; Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning”; and a composition of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger.”

And what is the draw that brings together so many singers from many miles away?

“I think it’s because (choral music) comes from the very heart and soul of the individual, it’s almost like a direct communication with the listener,” Meharg said.

Chor Anno will perform at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at St. James Catholic Church, 218 W. 12th St. in downtown Vancouver, and 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1206 N.E. Birch St., Camas. There is a suggested donation of $15; $10 for students and seniors. Visit choranno.org for more.

— Ashley Swanson


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