Gifted musical student again comes ‘home’ to Parkrose High

Find out why internationally-famous recording artist and composer Michael Allen Harrison plays this special concert at his alma mater every single year …

Parkrose High School choirs take turns warming up, before their performance with Michael Allen Harrison begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Just in time to mark the start of the Holiday Season, parents, friends, and neighbors filed into the Parkrose High School Theater on the afternoon of November 30, expecting a delightful musical program. They were not disappointed.

“This is the 13th Annual Back Home with Michael Allen Harrison concert,” announced Parkrose High’s Choral Director, Lesley Bossert.

-2 Choral Director Lesley Bossert prepares to begin the program.

“We appreciate Michael so much, both for showing his ‘Bronco Pride’ for his school, and for his support of our music programs,” Bossert told East Portland News. “Not only does he come back here to give an annual concert, through his Snowman Foundation – he supports us with pianos, and other things that help our musical education program.

“Also, his kindness really shows through, when he’s working with our students, sharing his gift of music with all of us,” Bossert added.

Michael Allen Harrison gives suggestions about staging the upcoming program.

As he waited for the show to start, Harrison spoke with us.

“I always look forward to coming back here to Parkrose,” Harrison began. “It’s great to be back in the neighborhood. I get to step back into the remembrance, step back into those happy times, and it just feels great. I really ‘fell in love’ with Christmas, deeply, because of my experience here, singing with the choirs when I was a student.

“Singing with the Debonaires, and the big ‘A Choirs’, and the experience of traveling to perform all over the place, I remember it clearly,” reminisced Harrison.

Before the program begins, Michael Allen Harrison greets members in the audience of the Parkrose High Theater.

When asked on past occasions why he gives so much of is time and effort back to music education, Harrison has typically shrugged off the question with the replied, “It’s who I am.”

Pressed for a more definitive answer, he said, “I think it’s a combination of two things. We all come into to the world with certain things in our toolbox – for me, music is part of my toolbox.

“The other thing is what kind of parents you have, and what kind of community you grow up in – and the influences from your mentors and even your peers,” Harrison said. “I was blessed with a good ‘musical toolbox’, and good parents and a good community. Because of this I give back to the community that I serve, and that supports me.”

Michael Allen Harrison welcomes the audience to the program.

Unfortunately, sound system problems occurred as the program began promptly at 2:00 p.m. But, Harrison made it clear he wasn’t bothered by the situation. “We will do this program the way we did it when I was here in school, back in 1976, and we were performing on a stage in our cafeteria – without microphones.”

Harrison kindly looked up, toward the sound booth and recognized the audio difficulties, and asked to the audience to show support for the students who are trying to make the sound system work. “I know they feel bad the something went wrong, so let’s send them a little love.”

Leading off the program, the Men’s Chorale is the singing Hi-Ho the Holly.

The Parkrose Debonaires sing, showing why this group continues to win many awards.

The Woman’s Chorale performed Winter Wonderland; and the Debonaires presented Caroling, Caroling. Then, the Aappella Choir sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Michael Allen Harrison and Julianne R. Johnson perform both standard and new tunes for the appreciative crowd.

If you missed the show, the Parkrose High School Aappella Choir will be performing at the Grotto Festival of Lights on Sunday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m.; and again during their Winter Choir Concert on Monday, December 15 at 7:00 p.m. in the Parkrose High Theater.

And, Michael Allen Harrison (and friends) are again appearing in Downtown Portland in the 24th year of their production, “Christmas at the Old Church”, now through December 26. CLICK HERE for more information, or to purchase tickets online.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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