Holy Cross School photo by Tammy Winborne
The young children's choir from Holy Cross sings at Assumption Village.
Holy Cross School photo by Tammy Winborne
The young children's choir from Holy Cross sings at Assumption Village.
Middle school choristers at Holy Cross have been ambassadors for the century-old North Portland Catholic institution. They sing at nursing homes, University of Portland sporting events, the Oregon Capitol and the Grotto. The repertoire varies from Vivaldi Masses to African hymns.

Now younger students are getting a chance, too.

Lucy Yandle, the Gonzaga University music whiz in her third year as Holy Cross choir director, has created an ensemble for children in grades 1 to 4. Her aim is always good sound, but at that age, she thinks it's just as important to give an experience of joy in singing.     

"I really want kids to know that music is not just for a few people; it's for everybody," Yandle says. So she praises children for effort, all the while guiding them to greater accomplishment, like singing harmony.

Holy Cross children see choir membership as something prestigious. As many as 80 middle schoolers from the 175-student school try out, including eighth grade athletes — male and female. While the middle school choir does have auditions, the primary grade group has no cuts.

"The kids feel good about what they are accomplishing," says Yandle. "They are making good music and growing. They are so smart."

Yandle sang in multiple St. Mary's Academy choirs before heading to Gonzaga to triple major in music education, elementary education and vocal performance. She minored in conducting. She's dreamt of leading choirs since she was herself in middle school.

Holy Cross parents are enthusiastic about the choirs.

"The children get such a sense of achievement out of it," says Eva Varga, who has daughters in both middle school and primary choirs. "I think it is the rigor of the program and the high standards. Miss Yandle takes them across town and lets them show what they have learned. That tells them they are on a higher level."

Beth Kabele, with sons in each choir, says her boys have been introduced to the tradition of great choral music.

"Miss Yandle chooses high quality pieces for the children to learn," Kabele explains. "Accordingly, her expectations are that the children will be able to do an excellent job singing them."