Tilikum Choir director takes on new role
John Baker is on a roll. The former choir director at Rex Putnam High School who retired in 2011 is anything but retired.
He currently is the director of the 75-member Tilikum Choir, which will be featured in "Looking Upwards" on May 19. He also is the director of the Milwaukie Lutheran Church choir and has just accepted the position of artistic director of the Portland Boychoir, which will perform May 29.
"I now have three high-profile jobs," he said, adding that he hopes he can manage to do all of them in the coming year.
"Looking Upwards" will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Milwaukie Lutheran Church, 3810 S.E. Lake Road in Milwaukie. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted.
The Tilikum Choir will sing "Sing Me to Heaven," by Daniel Gawthrop, "Stars I Shall Find," by David Dickau, and "The Unseen," by Alicia Baker, John Baker's daughter.
A solo cello performance of "Three Nocturnes," by Dan Forrest, also will be featured.
Guest artists for the concert include the OSU Meistersingers, directed by Russ Christensen, and West Linn High School's "Manchoir," directed by Aubrey Peterson.
Additional male singers from Rex Putnam, Clackamas, Franklin, Sam Barlow and Parkrose high schools also will perform, along with students from Rosemont Ridge Middle School in West Linn.
The Meistersingers and male guest artists will sing "Bound for Jubilee," by Joyce Eilers.
The finale will showcase all the performers, singing "We Rise Again," arranged Lydia Adams.
Baker said the Tilikum Choir is growing in numbers and enthusiasm.
"It is a joy to rehearse with them each Monday evening. We're planning a tour to Estonia and the Baltic states in summer of 2020," he said.
"I'm hopeful a few more former Putnam singers will sing with us next year and the summer tour."
The Portland Boychoir is a nonprofit arts organization with a mission to provide music education and professional-quality performance opportunities that develop self-esteem, depth of character and advanced music skills in boys ages 6 to 18.
When David York, current Portland Boychoir artistic director, asked Baker if he was looking for a professional opportunity, he initially said no.
But when York called again and asked Baker to do a preliminary interview, Baker said yes.
The interview went extremely well, so he accepted the job.
York then invited Baker to direct two selections that will be part of the Portland Boychoir concert at the Dolores Winningstad Theatre on May 29.
"David is hopeful that the transition to a new director will be more smooth if the singers are familiar with me. I think this is a good strategy," Baker said, adding that he will be taking over full responsibility In August.
In addition to directing all the concerts, Baker said he will be in charge of choosing concert themes and literature.
Also, "I will provide a vision for the future of the choir and will be the spokesperson to the choir, and to parents and community."
As to why he has taken on one more role, Baker said he loves the sounds and potential of men/boys choirs.
"There is a lot of literature that can be done. Also, after being retired for eight years, I feel I still have a voice to share in the choral community. I look forward to the challenge," he said.
"I hope to recruit more singers and build on the foundation already in place. Any male singer age 6-18 is welcomed to contact me at Portland Boychoir to set up an audition."
Baker noted that another factor in his decision to take on the artistic director position was the fact that Angela Hjertstedt, the current choir teacher at Happy Valley Middle School, will serve as associate director and operations manager.
Baker added, "She student-taught with me at Putnam about 15 years ago. She is a very gifted musician and has a positive, affirming and engaging way of interacting with singers."
Sing! Sing! Sing!
What: The Tilikum Choir and guest artists present "Looking Upwards"
When: 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19
Where: Milwaukie Lutheran Church, 3810 S.E. Lake Road, Milwaukie
Details: Concert is free, but donations gladly accepted. To learn more about the Tilikum Choir, visit the group's Facebook page.
To learn more about the Portland Boychoir, visit portlandboychoir.org. Portland Boychoir does not discriminate on the basis of color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. Portland Boychoir is not affiliated with any school or religious organization. Need-based scholarships are available.
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