The beginning of the year is always a very busy season for the Warrenton High School music program. The calendar is very full, when preparing the winter concert in early part of March, and district and league band and choir competitions that take place between February and April. The goal is to qualify to the State competitions later in the spring. Some of the students have also been busy preparing for their solo competitions, which often means taking lessons and practicing with the teacher after school hours. Several students were also selected to participate in honor band and honor choir, occurring in both January and February. Managing this schedule takes a lot of preparations from the teacher and the students.
However, nothing could have prepared the choir for the loss of one of its members, Timothy Pior, who suddenly passed away on March 10th due to complications from influenza. Timothy, a freshman, had joined the choir after Christmas break, and in this short time became a very well-liked classmate and an appreciated, capable tenor vocalist.
Purple Ribbons and a Candle
Timothy was still singing at the winter concert on Thursday, March 7th, but in the next couple of days became progressively ill and passed away on Sunday. The district choir competition in St Helens was scheduled on Tuesday, only two days later. Many of Timothy’s classmates could not see a way that they could participate in the competition. The music director, Michael McClure, encouraged the students to try.
- Music has an amazing power to help heal. It is able to express emotions that we can’t put to words. I knew that the best thing for the students was to sing. I think deep down they felt that also, and once they started to sing the music helped them, said McClure.
Upon arriving at St Helens high school, the WHS students noticed that the other students were wearing purple ribbons on their choir attire. Everyone knew about the tragedy and wanted to show their support to the Warrenton choir.
When it was time for the WHS choir to perform, the students set up a candle in the place where Timothy would have been standing. They sang all four songs the best they could and earned the best scores they have ever received at the district competition. The scores were only a couple points shy of qualifying for the State competition, but for the students this was enough. They were able to hold themselves together, and everyone was giving their best to honor Timothy.
McClure knew Timothy as a fearless young man, who was always willing to try his hardest even if he wasn’t sure how.
- Tim was well loved in the school and the choir. I feel that the choir came together more as a family to help each other grieve. There were some issues with that performance, but the choir as whole did an amazing job especially given the circumstances, McClure said. He thanked the students for their hard work in the very challenging situation.
The students showed their incredible strength when the choir performed at the Timothy Pior’s memorial service, which was held at the WHS gymnasium on March 17th. It was not an easy thing to do, but they wanted to show support to the Pior family by doing what Timothy loved to do: to sing, and be the kind of person who would have stepped up in any challenging situation.
Winning the League Championship
The District 1 league competition, held on April 3th, gave the WHS choir another chance to try for the State choir competition. The choir received respected scores of 81, 84 and 90 from the judges. The choir did not only qualify for State, but also won the League Championship title. McClure says that this is the fourth time in the last ten years that the choir has made it to the State competition.
- As far as I know this is the first time that the WHS choir has won their league competition. This was the best performance that I have ever seen from the choir. I was so proud of them, said McClure, who has been directing the WHS music program the past seven years, but has worked with the district total of ten years.
The WHS choir will be competing at the OSAA State Choir Competition. The 3A competition will be on April 29th at OSU in Corvallis. Anyone is welcome to go support the Warrenton high school choir, and also listen many other great choir performances.
A link to listen A Famine song recorded at the WHS winter concert on March 7th. Timothy Pior is in the middle row right behind the choir director Michael McClure.