Chamber Music Northwest Orion Quartet The Old Church Portland Oregon

A sound community of choirs

Oregon Chorale revives mental health themed concert originally planned for 2020.


It might seem like all of the choral music has been sucked toward Eastern Washington (read the ArtsWatch profile of this year’s NWACDA conference in Spokane)–but our Oregon Chorale remains at home to present a concert about concerns of the mind and connection to the heart. 

On March 12thand 13th the Hillsboro-based choral ensemble will revive a concert program they planned and rehearsed but never got to perform two years ago. It is as relevant today as in 2020 – perhaps more so. Artistic Director of Oregon Chorale Jason Sabino has thoughtfully curated works that speak to the challenges of mental health in crisis. 

The subject matter of this concert might be difficult for some to bear, but the overarching theme carries not an excess of despair, but of hope – of treatment, of resources, of the healing and in part therapeutic power of music to carry us toward sound mind. Jason Sabino is candid about his own journey through mental health issues. In his program notes he relates: “My darkest moments woke me up to my true struggle, that of how to live with myself – how to accept me as I am and to know that I am enough.” He’s still here. 

OC has partnered with mental health resources in the area: Hawthorn Walk-In Center, LifeWorks NW, and the Center of Excellence in Co-occurring Medicine. Representatives will be on hand pre- and post-concert to provide more information about their services. But the chorale has also developed a relationship and artistic partnership with the choral singers at Maybelle Community Center in downtown Portland. The Maybelle Community Choir and Oregon Chorale will sing three songs together.

Jason Sabino and Maybelle Choir. Photo courtesy of Oregon Chorale.
Jason Sabino and Maybelle Choir. Photo courtesy of Oregon Chorale.

Named for principal supporter Maybelle Clark Macdonald, Maybelle Center for Community opened in 1991. Read about its founding and history here. Today it is a community center open to local citizens who need respite from social isolation and a sense of worth. The first words you will read on their website are “Connection is a Basic Human Need.” Their choir, with director and pianist, Steve Aman, offers all of that. 

Much research has been done on the power of music and its distinct components – singing, playing an instrument, rhythm, listening. In her 2021 book Of Sound Mind, author Nina Kraus deep dives into the research on how our brains make sense of sound. The science is articulated in an accessible voice which makes it a fun and informative read. In the chapter “Music is the Jackpot: Sensing, Thinking, Moving, Feeling,” Kraus writes:

Through the privileged connections between the sound [perceiving] mind and these vital brain functions, music can provide a powerful form of healing. Music is an undertapped resource with enormous potential for growth in health care. The sound mind is at its heart.

Kraus, Nina. Of Sound Mind. The MIT Press. September, 2021

Healing and hope

Let’s take a look at some of the messages of healing and hope the Oregon Chorale offers in this concert. 

Heart-caressing pieces by Eric Whitacre (“Water Music”) and Jayne Southwick Cool/Eric Nelson (“When Memory Fades”) are set alongside Knut Nystedt’s alluring, gelatinous Bach chorale interpretation “Immortal Bach.” Mental health testimonials will be read aloud as the choir performs Jake Runestad’s “Please Stay.” Listen here to another poignant piece: the poetry of Sara Teasdale as set by Frank Ticheli in “There Will Be Rest.”

Andrew Jacobson is Director of Choirs at Bellevue High School in Washington. He is also a gifted composer and a good friend of Jason Sabino. “Just Listen”, one of Jacobson’s newest works, was gifted to Oregon Chorale and is cherished by the choir. 

Maybelle and Oregon Chorale combine to lay down some funk: “Yes We Can Can” by Allen Toussant/arr. Kirby Shaw, and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” The combined choirs will be accompanied by Maybelle’s Steve Aman. Oregon Chorale welcomes guest accompanist Michael Barnes to this concert.

Oregon Chorale sings “Of Sound Mind” Saturday, Mar. 12, 7 pm, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hillsboro and Sunday, Mar. 13, 3 pm at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton. Tickets here.


Virtually done 

Portland Center Stage presents Hair at the Armory Portland Oregon

For one more choral experience on this weekend, this one wherever you are in the world, join the Portland Symphonic Choir for their free Virtual Choral Masterworks Series on The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn, presented by Dr. Erin Freeman. Bravo to PSC for continuing these offerings at which you can sing and immerse yourself in the inner workings of a Choral Masterwork. And The Creation is a doozey. Sunday, March 13, 7 pm; log in right here

Arwen in Seattle

Tell your Seattle people that Portland soprano Arwen Myers is coming to town and they will have two chances to hear her. Myers and Portland collaborative pianist Susan McDaniel present a recital of works by Bach, Barber, Bernstein, Vaughn Williams, Price. Yummy stuff. The Friday, Mar. 11, 7:30 pm concert is part of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral Music Series and tickets can be purchased here.

Two nights later Myers will appear with in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion presented by Harmonia orchestra and chorus, Artistic Director William White with Columbia Choirs, Artist Director Katrina Turman. Sunday, Mar. 13, 3:00, First Free Methodist Church. More info and tickets here.

So, how is this our win, too? Livestream! Both concerts! Arwen, Susan and St. Matthew in your home. Those livestream tickets are available at the links above. Cheers.

Want to read more music news in Oregon? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

Daryl Browne is a music educator, alto, flutist and writer who lives in Beaverton, Oregon.


One Response

  1. The Eric Whitacre piece is actually Water Night 🙂
    This concert is going to be beautiful!

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