MARQUEE - Students share their gifts with the Valley

Walla Walla High School's free Gift Concert is 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Wa-hi auditorium.

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Walla Walla High School choir director Norbert Rossi directs the chamber singers during a rehearsal for their upcoming "Gift Concert."

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Extra mics used in other students pieces frame chamber singer Kolton Kolbaba as he sings through his piece during rehearsals for the Walla Walla High School chamber singers' annual "Gift Concert."

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Walla Walla High School chamber singer Kathryn Bogley rehearses through her song on stage, complete with dancers in the background as the Walla Walla High School Chamber Singers prepare for their annual "Gift Concert."

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With a little purse of his lips and swing of his hips, WaHi junior Gabe Anderson sings Elvis' "Blue Christmas" during rehersals for the chamber singers' upcoming "Gift Concert."

Kolton Kolbaba takes to the stage, and with his classmates serving as audience, sings "Oh Holy Night," his voice carrying across the auditorium.

The brief performance ends with applause, while the next students head to the stage.

Walla Walla High School's Chamber Singers, along with the school's Treble Ensemble, will present their annual Gift Concert on Tuesday. With just several days to go, the students ran through a technical rehearsal in their school's auditorium to check sound and equipment for the big night.

The Gift Concert is a tradition started years ago by former Wa-Hi choir director Paul Dennis, said Norbert Rossi, who took over as choir director about 11 years ago. The concert is a chance to highlight the high school's many talented singers, while presenting some Christmas classics.

"Everybody in the chamber group has to come up with an act," Rossi said, explaining the basic idea behind the Gift Concert. The result has been a mix of Christmas carols and other popular songs, which include musical accompanists and a some drama.

"You see a bit of who they are that you maybe don't see in a big group," Rossi said. "It's very individualized."

Student Gabe Anderson will do his best Elvis impersonation as he sings through the King's "Blue Christmas." He gave classmates a quick run-through of the act, which included the deep voice and obligatory pelvis shaking.

In another modern classic, student Stacie Trego will perform an animated version of "Baby It's Cold Outside" along with Kolbaba and her older brother, Stephen Trego.

"It's great to have the oppor-tunity to get a picture of who people are when they sing," Rossi said.

Kolbaba, a senior at Wa-Hi, said the Gift Concert kicks off what is a busy month of performances for the choirs. The concert also sets the tone for the holiday season of giving and spreading good cheer.

"What the point of the Gift Concert is, is to give a gift to the community, and to our parents," he said.

The month marks a busy period for choir members, as they head into the community to perform, while also preparing for additional concerts.

There are several luncheon performances scheduled and an afternoon of singing at Providence St. Mary Medical Center.

"That's my favorite experience of the year," Kolbaba said about singing at the hospital.

Drawn initially to theater in his first year of high school, Kolbaba said he soon realized many of his drama friends were also in choir. He then got to see them perform.

"It was really, really good, and it inspired me to join," he said, and is now in his third year of choir. Kolbaba also stuck with drama and recently played a leading role in the school's production of "Pride and Prejudice."

"We have amazing students here," Rossi said. "They continually amaze me."

In the spring, five Wa-Hi choir members will head to Bellevue for a regional honor choir. Kolbaba and senior Natalie Ingersoll-Allen will travel to Chicago in March after being picked to participate in a national honor choir for older students and adults.

Ingersoll-Allen said she has been singing since her youth and feels humbled to be part of a choir with so many talented students.

"It's just my passion," she said. "It's a way to express yourself."

The introduction of the hit television series "Glee," which focuses on a high school choir, has brought some attention to school choirs. Kolbaba and Ingersoll-Allen said they are both fans of the show, for the musical talent and for its take on a high school choir.

In the show, the choir is the place where students with different backgrounds and in different groups come together. At Wa-Hi, the experience is not that different.

"We're all misfits in our own way," Kolbaba said. "Choir is a place for everyone to get along."

Ingersoll-Allen agreed.

"You can come together and make music," she said.

Both students will end their senior years with good memories, friendships, and the satisfaction that comes from working together as a group.

"There has been so much talent here for years, and I don't think that is going to stop," Kolbaba said, naming Rossi's direction as key to lifting the choir to success.

Rossi said his students have worked hard to earn honors and to put the finishing touches on their performances in the weeks to come.

"The ‘gift' is who they are," Rossi said. "It's not just their music."

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