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June 30, 2022

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Rose Festival song blooms on Vancouver man’s inspiration

Orchestra performs song written for Portland Rose Festival

By , Columbian Features Editor
Published:
8 Photos
Ronald Carr sits at his desk at home in Vancouver where he composed "From One Rose," a theme song for the Portland Rose Festival performed by the Oregon Symphony May 26 as part of the Rose City Reunion Concert. Carr serves on the festival's board of directors.
Ronald Carr sits at his desk at home in Vancouver where he composed "From One Rose," a theme song for the Portland Rose Festival performed by the Oregon Symphony May 26 as part of the Rose City Reunion Concert. Carr serves on the festival's board of directors. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The song “From One Rose” took root in Ronald Carr’s imagination in 2007, when the Portland Rose Festival celebrated its centennial and produced a documentary by that name.

“It came to me there was no theme song or music representing the Rose Festival and its 100 year history and service to the community and the Pacific Northwest,” said Carr, a 73-year-old Vancouver resident and member of the festival’s board of directors.

The lyrics began forming in his mind — starting with the Royal Rosarians’ motto, “For you a rose in Portland grows” — and then he plunked at the piano to compose the music. His vision was larger than that, though. He dreamed of a full orchestra playing his song.

On May 26, that dream came into full bloom as the Oregon Symphony and vocalist Susannah Mars performed the song at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland.

“It was very emotional and uplifting,” Carr said.

Carr grew up in a musical home. He was born in Yakima and moved to Northern California at age 5.

Composer: Ronald Carr; Arranger: Bruce Broughton; Vocalist: Mz Kelly

“My parents were Salvation Army officers, ministers, both musicians. Me and my two brothers learned to play instruments and sing and do a lot of things music related,” Carr said. “I started on trombone.”

He also plays euphonium, guitar and baritone.

After graduating with a biology degree from the University of La Verne in Southern California, Carr served four years in the U.S. Navy. He then served 18 years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, but his full-time career for 40 years was working for nonprofit organizations doing marketing, public relations and fundraising.

Carr moved to Vancouver in 1989 and commuted to Portland for work. He always enjoyed the Portland Rose Festival and began volunteering with the organization after retiring in 2004. He notes that a third of the board members live in Vancouver.

“There are reasons to live on this side or that side, but we go back and forth. We’re all one big community,” Carr said. “It’s called the Portland Rose Festival, but in my mind, it’s the Rose Festival, one of the largest events in the Pacific Northwest.”

As he wrote “From One Rose,” its focus broadened from the Rose Festival to the entire Pacific Northwest.

“From One Rose”

From the mountains to the rivers
Come the joys that life delivers,
And the quiet peace surrounds us when it snows.

With the forests and the creatures
That our glorious region features,
And with nature’s perfect teachers,
Our world glows.

From one rose, from one rose,
Today for you a rose in Portland grows.

From one rose, from one rose,
A better world begins with just one rose.

There is nothing to prepare ya,
For the beauty of the area
Of the winds and water, waves and
Shores below.

Dazzling fountains, falls and forests
Pristine air that helps restore us
Fertile valleys lay before us
As we go.

From one rose, from one rose,
Today for you a rose in Portland grows.

From one rose, from one rose,
A better world begins with just one rose.

Tis the northwest and the region
God’s own place to retreat in
And the people come in legions
Just to know.

When I’ve seen what there’s to see
All from sea to shining sea.
There’s no place I’d rather be
And it shows.

— Words and music by Ronald Carr

“The goal was to take the majesty and beauty of our Northwest and share it in a song,” he said.

He tapped lifelong friend and 10 time Emmy Award-winner Bruce Broughton to translate his song into a symphonic arrangement. Carr has known Broughton since they were teens. Broughton composed the theme song for the military TV drama “JAG,” as well as scores for major motion pictures “Tombstone,” “Lost in Space” and “Young Sherlock Holmes.”

“I told Bruce, ‘I want a Hollywood big-screen, motion-picture sound,’ ” Carr said.

Broughton arranged the music and created a synthesized recording with vocals by Carr’s daughter, who performs as MzKelly. Two years ago, Carr met with Marilyn Clint, the Rose Festival’s chief operating officer, in a coffee shop and played the song for her.

“Ron is a person with a lot of passion. He’s got that to spare,” Clint said. “He started to explain his vision to me, to have it performed by a symphony orchestra. … If there’s anything I’ve learned about events, never overlook an idea, never overlook an opportunity, no matter how impossible.”

The pandemic waylaid the festival for two years. Meanwhile, Clint used Carr’s song as inspiration to reach out to the Oregon Symphony, which last played as part of the festival in 2001.

If you go

What: Spirit Mountain Grand Floral Parade

When: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday

Where: Parade begins at Memorial Coliseum, 300 N. Ramsay Way, Portland. Then it travels across Weidler Street to N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, south to Lloyd Boulevard, and ends at Multnomah near Lloyd Center.

Information: www.rosefestival.org

The Rose City Reunion Concert took shape with backing from the Bank of America. It was planned as an outdoor event at Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. A forecast for rain forced a venue change, and the performance took place instead at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Carr heard his song fill the auditorium.

“What I felt was, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here.’ ” he said. “It was amazing.”

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