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America’s largest Christmas choral festival


The St. Stanislaus Polish Choir – along with 150 other choirs, performance artists and choral groups – performs every year at The Grotto’s Festival of Lights, the largest choral festival in the country. This is the 21st year of the Festival of Lights, running now through Dec. 30.
The St. Stanislaus Polish Choir performs Sunday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. The Grotto is located at Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. In addition to festival admission, Festivalgoers are asked to bring a canned or dry baby food item in donation for SnowCap Community Charities.

The Grotto’s 2008 Christmas Festival of Lights concert schedule is completely full. Expected to welcome over 50,000 visitors, this year’s festival will host 150 musical performances. Featuring over 5,000 total performers during its 33-day run, it is the country’s largest Christmas choral festival.

Inside the Chapel of Mary – where over 150 musical performances happen throughout the duration of the festival – Festival favorite Michael Allen Harrison performs. Harrison is scheduled to appear at the finale Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m.
But beyond the sheer numbers, area choir directors recognize The Grotto’s Chapel of Mary for its outstanding acoustical clarity and resonance. Many of the most experienced directors feel it is Portland’s premier venue for performing choral music concerts; some have suggested that The Grotto’s chapel has acoustics on par with some of Europe’s finest cathedrals.

Choirs enjoy their annual musical experience at The Grotto so much; they often schedule their performance at this premier choral festival six to 10 months in advance. Two Gresham-area high schools, Sam Barlow and Centennial High, have performed 21 and 20 years respectively. Many others have performed for 15 years or more.

Continuing nightly through Tuesday, Dec. 30th, The Grotto’s 21st annual Christmas Festival of Lights has become one of Portland’s favorite holiday traditions for many Portland area families and the chapel concerts are consistently a highlight. “It always tickles me to see the faces of choir members who come into the chapel for the first time,” says The Grotto’s Brother Gregory Atherton. “You can see their eyes widen with amazement when they first hear their voices reverberate around the hall.” Each evening features at least four concert performances presented by many of the region’s finest choirs and musicians. Performers and performances vary from the strolling Opera Carolers and the 90-member school choirs to Michael Allen Harrison and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. In addition to the nearly one half-million lights, the festival also presents puppet shows, outdoor caroling, a petting zoo, Christmas skits and hammer dulcimer music. Festivalgoers are asked to bring a canned or dry baby food item in donation for SnowCap Community Charities.

Sponsors of the Festival of Lights include K103 FM and the Clear Channel family of radio stations, NECA/IBEW Local 48, Portland Candle, KBVM Catholic Radio Station, Boyd Coffee Company, Sunbelt Rentals and Danna Brothers’ Elmer’s Restaurants. A complete concert schedule is listed on page 21 of this month’s Memo and available on The Grotto’s Web site, For more information about The Grotto’s 21st Annual Christmas Festival of Lights and other events, contact 503-254-7371 or visit

Editor’s note: Sara Patinkin is director of development at The Grotto.

What: The Grotto’s 21st Annual
When: Now until Dec. 30, 2008 (closed Christmas Day), open nightly 5-9:30 p.m.
Where: Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, free parking
How much: General admission: $7.50; Children ages 3 to 12: $3; ages 2 and under: FREE
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