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Camas High School Revolution Hall Concert

Alicia Jo Rabins, Ethan Chessin (Choir Director) and Camas High School Choir, Photo Courtesy Jason Quigley

For the past eight months, the Camas High School (CHS) Choir has been working closely with the Portland-based composer and writer Alicia Jo Rabins on her new project “I Was A Desert: Songs of the Matriarchs”. The 130-person choir, along with Rabins and rock and string trios, performed the show for the first time ever Thursday, April 11, at Revolution Hall, a top musical venue in the Portland area.

The piece, an extension of Rabin’s long-running “Girls in Trouble” project, focuses on re-interpreting stories of women and girls from the Torah to portray them in a more centered, feminist light. “I’m Done Dressing up for You”, for example, retells “The Book of Esther” to focus on the side character, Vashti, the wife of a Persian king who refuses his request to display her beauty to the king’s friends and is exiled from the kingdom because of it. 

CHS Choir backstage before the concert, Photo Courtesy Seha Jang

Nick Delffs, another local musician, was also a part of Thursday’s performance. Delffs opened Revolution Hall for Rabins; The CHS Choir accompanied Delffs as well in his final song “Power and Position”.

CHS students were also uniquely exhibited throughout the night as Rabins intertwined their anonymous stories and life experiences into her performance through on-stage readings performed by actors from the choir. These anecdotes included humorous quips about “rizz” and pogo sticks, but would also often dive into deeper topics as well, such as hopes, aspirations, losses and disappointments. 

The care for the project which this interpersonal touch perpetuated among CHS Choir students was duly noted by CHS sophomore, Seha Jang who attended the Revolution Hall show. 

“All the students were really active and passionate about the music,” Jang said. 

Nick Delffs; opening act to the show, Photo courtesy Jason Quigley

Ethan Chessin, the CHS Choir Director whose role in the actualization of this project was fundamental, shared a similar sentiment, expressing his excitement for his students to have been a part of something like this. 

“It’s just so delightful to see students discovering what it’s like to be on stage in an environment that is just so much bigger and more exciting than the environments that we’ve performed in before,” Chessin said. 

The CHS Choir plans to take this show on tour with Alicia Jo Rabins and is scheduled to perform in May in New York City at the Jewish Heritage Museum. An event which, as one could imagine, is stirring up quite a large amount of excitement within the CHS Choir. 

“It opens up a lot of opportunities,” CHS Junior Choir member Vivian Lovell said.

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Isabella Ricci
Isabella Ricci, Staff Writer

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