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SWEET HOME — It didn’t take any arm-twisting to talk 1993 Sweet Home High School graduate John Kluttz into directing the 37th annual Singing Christmas Tree, which debuts Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the high school  auditorium.

It certainly helped that Kluttz has been a tree member in the past, and that former director Paul Rowton had been his high school choir teacher and director when Kluttz was a tree singer.

“I always knew that I wanted to do this someday,” Kluttz said. “Paul approached me about it a couple years ago and I decided that if the opportunity presented itself, I would try it. I love it. It has been a blast.”

Kluttz, 44, has a degree in music education from Oregon State University and taught in the Greater Albany Public Schools for five years. He performed with the tree for two years in high school and three or four years as an adult, “but then life got busy.”

Kluttz said the theme, “The Christmas Tree Trail,” which honors the Capitol Christmas Tree coming from the Sweet Home Ranger District, was chosen before he was hired.

“I have high hopes for this show and for the future,” he said. “I have always loved the Singing Christmas Tree. In the future, I would like to add instruments and make the tree bigger and better. It’s always a great show.”

None of this year’s 38 singers have been with the tree all 37 years, said longtime volunteer Sue Olson. But several singers are members of multigeneration tree families.

Olson is joined by her daughter, Debbie Walvatne and her grandson, Eli.

Then there are Autumn, Grace and Jessiah of the Bliege family; the John Kluttz and McCloud families; Molly Laycock, her daughter Lauren Morrelli and granddaughter Ashley Morrelli. Laycock’s parents, the Carrolins, were past tree members. Lisa and Akira Blom round out the multigenerational singers.

Olson said this year’s show will include a mixture of traditional religious songs, plus traditional holiday treats.

The popular children’s choir will be directed by Molly Laycock, and Santa will be on hand to greet children.

“It’s a sweet, free-flowing program,” Olson said.

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Rehearsals began in September, Olson said.

Some of the numbers will include “Welcome Here,” “Mary, Did You Know?” and the “Hallelujah" chorus.

Organizers said attendees likely will be impressed by 12-year-old violinist Moriah Win.

And what does former director Rowton think of the job his former student is doing?

“You’re doing fantastic; really, really well,” he praised during a break in a recent rehearsal.

This year’s key sponsors are A & W Restaurant, Linn-Co Federal Credit Union and Economy Drugs.

Paul Rowton Jr. will host the traditional holiday sing-along.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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