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News / Life / Clark County Life

Celebrating Washington in song: Reprise Choir’s ‘The Voice of Washington’ highlights Evergreen state creators

Program to be presented March 23 and 24 at Vancouver First United Methodist Church

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 21, 2024, 6:03am
11 Photos
Members of Reprise Choir rehearse on a recent Monday night.
Members of Reprise Choir rehearse on a recent Monday night. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

If the Washington musicians that spring quickest to mind are Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Heart or even Bing Crosby, here’s your ticket to a whole new set of Evergreen State sounds.

“The Voice of Washington,” Reprise Choir’s upcoming concert series, features music exclusively by composers who are (or were) based in this state for life or work, including several right here in Clark County. The concerts are set for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at Vancouver First United Methodist Church, 401 E. 33rd St. Many of the composers will be in attendance.

And does Washington have a characteristic sound? Embedded in the music, will concertgoers hear pouring rain?

Maybe they will. One of the concert’s four thematic sections is “Washington Weather.”

“We put up with a lot of that,” said Reprise co-founder and co-director Janet Reiter. “Might as well celebrate it.”

If You Go

What: “The Voice of Washington,” featuring composers from this state.

When: 7 p.m. March 23, 3 p.m. March 24.

Where: Vancouver First United Methodist Church, 401 E. 33rd St.

Admission: Free but $20 donation suggested.

On the web: www.reprisechoirsings.org.

The idea for an all-Washington program came to Reiter and April Duvic, Reprise’s other co-founder and co-director, at a summer 2023 meeting of the Washington chapter of the American Choir Directors Association. A keynote speaker there emphasized his musical heritage and strong sense of place, which happened to be overseas.

That stirred up Reiter’s and Duvic’s own prideful sense of place immediately, they said.

“We’re both from Washington,” Reiter said.

And the meeting was full of Washington choirmasters who are also talented composers. Whittling them down to a final 14 for a “Voice of Washington” program wasn’t easy, Reiter and Duvic said. In the end, they decided not just to go with in-state composers but with the freshest of sounds. Every piece included in the program comes from this century, Duvic said. Many were composed during or after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The world premiere of “Celebrate Time” is a great example of post-COVID music — and a great example of local teamwork, too.

“Celebrate Time” is a short, zesty piece with music composed by renowned organist and prolific composer Martin Ellis, the music director at Vancouver First United Methodist Church, with lyrics by Reprise Choir’s own Amber Tripp.

Tripp, who writes marketing copy and has also penned a young-adult novel manuscript, said she was pleased — and a little intimidated — to collaborate with Ellis. His main charge was for Tripp to write something “celebratory,” she said.

Celebrate what, exactly? Peace? Love? It’s all been done, Tripp said.

But what about time? That seemed right to her. When people ponder time, Tripp said, it’s usually with a sense of loss.

“All we talk about is, ‘I wish I could go back,’ ” she said. “We always talk about the time we wasted, the time we didn’t enjoy. Everybody has so much regret about that. But we can never get it back.”

“We value time differently, after the pandemic,” Reiter added. “We lost so much time together.”

Tripp settled on celebrating time. But her gush of heartfelt words collided with Ellis’ sense of musical time when the two of them tried piecing the song together at the piano.

“I threw a lot of words on the page. It was too many,” Tripp said.

It took teamwork — and a lot of careful editing — to arrive at the finished piece, she said.

“Celebrate Time” leans into joy with a spacious, cinematic, boldly modern flavor.

“It’s the happiest of the happy,” Tripp said.

Perhaps nothing on the program is more of an unabashed earworm than the ballad “The Story,” which lifted country-rock singer Brandi Carlile to fame after it was featured in a 2007 episode of the TV medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“The Story” was composed by Philip Hanseroth, a member of Carlile’s band, who grew up in Seattle. Carlile herself hails from Seattle suburb Burien.

Less entirely modern will be a traditional Latin Mass set to music by Don Appert, orchestra director and music department chairman at Clark College, as well as other contemporary settings by Washington composers of words from the Bible and from non-Washington poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg and Wendell Berry. Closing the program will be “A Joyous Farewell” by singer and composer Judy Rose, formerly of Vancouver.

The program will be a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. Dance Fusion NW students Anna Chapin, Keira Wachter and Averie Tripp will add some spins and sways to the song “She Was Dancing,” by Reginald Unterseher. There will also be a small art exhibit, with an oil painting of a scene from the opera “Tristan und Isolde,” by Reprise Choir soprano and Salmon Creek Elementary School art teacher Jeanine Clark, auctioned to benefit the choir.

Reprise Choir is an ambitious 34-voice ensemble that performs just one concert series each year in March. That’s because the group includes many busy choir directors and music teachers.

Reprise formed in 2016 when Duvic and Reiter, fast friends and co-directors of choral music at Clark College, jointly decided to step away from that role. When their students protested, they created this exclusive extracurricular choir.