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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment July 22, 2014

7/23/2013 12:03:00 PM
Stephanie King is poet, pianist, patriot
Stephanie King, right, with the Transfiguration Choir aboard USS Missouri. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Stephanie King, right, with the Transfiguration Choir aboard USS Missouri. photo provided

By Kit Tosello

When Stephanie King stepped onto the bow of the Battleship Missouri Memorial in Pearl Harbor earlier this month as conductor of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration Choir, she knew her team was ready. King had pushed and stretched them in the weeks leading up to the 4th of July Salute to Valor Music Festival, teaching them several traditional patriotic songs in a short time. But she didn't yet know in what ways she, too, would be stretched.

And she didn't know that her original song, "Remember," her own heartfelt tribute to the men and women serving in our nation's military, would be spotlighted at the climax of the event.

The annual Independence Day concert featured seven choirs from across the country. When the festival's scheduled piano accompanist fell through, King stepped in, providing accompaniment for the entire program. "Usually an accompanist and music director work together for a long time," said King. "We were thrown together for a week with a 'Let's just see what happens.' I had to be ready for anything. It went really well. I was delighted to do it."

Father Ted Rodrigues, rector of the Episcopal Church in Sisters, never raised an eyebrow. "Stephanie's unflappable. Very intuitive, very calm. When there are changes on the fly, she can roll with it."

"As we prepared for the concert," King recalls, "I was thinking about the power of music, the lyrics, what it means. I thought I'd like to write a song for this tour specifically, remembering the men and women who serve, the sacrifices involved. When my future son-in-law, who served in the Navy, heard it, he got very emotional."

King never expected to perform her song at the music festival. She had intended it for a different tour gig -at St. Andrews Cathedral in Honolulu. But when Hawaii News Now, Honolulu's national TV affiliate, heard about it, they asked the Transfiguration Choir to perform "Remember" during a televised promotional spot prior to the event. Then, the Salute to Valor music director heard about it.

"The song kind of took on a life of its own, and we were asked to perform it as a special feature during the festival," King said.

The Transfiguration Choir has traveled abroad twice before under King's leadership - to Germany and to Ireland. But the 4th of July concert held special meaning, particularly for those who can remember back to being a child during World War II.

It was a mountaintop moment for Stephanie King also.

King has studied piano since the age of 5, and she earned her bachelor's degree in piano performance from San Jose State University. She added to that a master's degree from Lewis & Clark College, becoming certified to teach music and language arts to grades K-12.

When she and her husband, Randy King, moved their growing family to Portland so both could complete a one-year Bible program at Multnomah Bible College, it was meant to be temporary. But they decided to remain in Portland. While there, Stephanie was featured as a guest soloist with the Willamette Falls Symphony, performing the Grieg piano concerto.

"It had long been one of my big dreams to play a piano concerto with an orchestra," King remembers. "But it was so difficult with three little kids, I wondered what I'd got myself into. Looking back, it was a real highlight."

But life felt harried in the city, and the Kings moved to Sisters. "We wanted a little saner pace of life," she said. All three of Randy and Stephanie's children graduated from Sisters High School - twins David and Eric, and Rebecca. Both boys are now married, and Rebecca is engaged to Leonard Remington - who served in the Navy and helped inspire her original song.

When Father Rodrigues arrived at the Episcopal church eight years ago, King was his first hire. As musical director, King continues to amaze him with her broad range of musical talents, giftedness, and insight.

"She understands that the music is a message in itself," he said. "That's one thing she brings to this position that I find to be insightful and unique. She's one of those wonderful Christian


King also regularly jumps into the music scene at Sisters High School, substituting for the choir or band teacher. She has provided piano accompaniment for several high school


But she is passionate about her church job, working alongside Father Rodrigues to select just the right music for two Sunday worship services with two different musical styles. "Being able to do music in a church setting is special," she explains, "because I find that music has power to grab your emotions, opening you up, getting you to think deep thoughts.

"I've felt a lot of freedom because of the love and support of our congregation. As the choir grew, I kept pushing them. Their first a cappella song, with no organ or piano. Then, their first foreign language song. They totally rose to the challenges and they have a real pride of accomplishment. It's been amazing to travel together. I knew going on tour would be a real team-building experience. We're like a family."

Still, King makes a point that the choir is always open to newcomers. And she has no shortage of ideas for developing the choir in the future with new and challenging experiences.

But with the kids grown, she's also at a place in life where she can pursue her love for writing. As part of a writer's group, she is honing her craft: children's books, adult non-fiction articles, as well as poetry. "I'm dabbling," she says, "to see where it leads."

Come wind, rain, or shine, she also makes time for canoeing with Randy on Suttle Lake. "We'll just strap the canoe on top of our Subaru and drive over there."

Father Rodrigues enjoys telling how, last fall, the Transfiguration Choir was asked to sing at a banquet during the annual gathering of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon.

"I could tell everyone thought they were going to hear some nice background music, some Sunday church music," he recalls. "And I'm thinking, 'You don't know what you're in for.'

"When our choir started performing - some classical pieces as well as traditional hymns - they blew everybody away. That's what Stephanie has developed. We're very, very blessed to have her, and blessed that she's brought the choir to this level now."

Sisters Country Weddings

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