The 2018 holiday season brings a rich assortment of aural and vocal traditions as the Rogue Valley’s choirs and orchestras sound out the work they’ve practiced to perfection over the year.
The season begins early in the month with Rogue Valley Chorale’s presentation of “Magnify, the Words of Mary” performed Dec. 1 and 2, at the Craterian in Medford. Michael Morris debuts as the new director of the Chorale with this performance, showcasing two composers’ very different versions of “The Magnificat,” though they use practically the same orchestration.
“‘The Magnificat’ is a major work for Catholic and Lutheran German churches because of the religious holiday; Schubert was Catholic and Bach was Lutheran,” Morris explains. “The piece shows the excitement, the reverence, the deep devotion and a family happy at the birth of a child.”
The voice is one of life’s most powerful and marvelous vehicles, and voices raised together in song make a wondrous celebration. Mark Reppert, who directs the Siskiyou Singers, says, “Chorale music is the basis of the spirit of the holiday season and came before anything else — chorale singing has been around for centuries and centuries. It’s at the basis of our souls.”
The Siskiyou Singers will perform Dvorak’s “Mass in D Major” Dec. 7, 8 and 9 in Ashland and Jacksonville. “The piece we’re doing is one of the most joyful and expressive pieces the Siskiyou Singers have ever done,” Reppert says. The Singers will finish the evening with their signature performance of “Silent Night” and a singalong of favorite carols.
Maestro Paul French directs the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers’ “Welcome Yule!” concerts in the Music Recital Hall at the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University in Ashland Dec. 15 and 16. The acoustics of the celebrated hall showcase a choice collection of holiday music that ranges from Gregorian chants, traditional favorites to new music from around the world and a premiere of a new work by SORS composer in residence Jodi French. Singers will be accompanied by organ, piano, harp, flute and nyckelharpa, and the North Medford High School Chamber Choir will make a guest appearance.
Back by popular demand for a second year will be Lynn Sjolund with an open door community concert of selected pieces from Handel’s “Messiah” Dec. 16, at the Craterian Theatre in Medford. Sjoland was a long-time conductor for Rogue Valley Chorale and served as its artistic director from 1972-2013 before retiring. The free concert draws soloists and chorale members throughout the valley to celebrate the holiday season and honor Sjoland’s many contributions to chorale music.
“We weren’t sure how many to expect last year,” says Craterian events manager Eric Strahl, “but we had more than 400 come to perform.” Last year the Craterian checked out songbooks to those less familiar with the music so the audience could sing along.
Music made with instruments — strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and more — is also a hallmark of the holiday season. 2018 features new concert selections by the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon and the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra.
The holiday concerts of the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon are scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 in Ashland and Jacksonville. These accomplished string, woodwind and brass musicians and ensembles from across the Rogue Valley will perform music by Mozart, Handel and others.
The Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra offers “Candlelight” this holiday season, performed not in the SOU Music Recital Hall but in two Rogue Valley churches.
Hosted by Ashland’s First Presbyterian Church Dec. 14 and Parkway Christian Center in Grants Pass Dec. 15, the churches will be decorated for the holidays and lit with candles. Kristin Kessler, who plays a solo Albinoni oboe concerto in the performance, says the church concerts are a tribute to Arthur Shaw, who was RVSO conductor for 22 seasons, retiring in 2009.
“Conductor Martin Majkut has selected a lot of early holiday music, with a brass carol sing at the end of the concert,” notes executive director Joelle Graves. “The music for the concert is earlier Baroque and classical pieces, more Victorian, small ensemble, mostly springs and woodwinds. It will be magical.”
In a rousing and fitting close to the holiday season performances, “Tomáseen Foley’s Celtic Christmas” will rock the Craterian boards Dec. 22. This year marks Foley’s 22nd annual performance at the Craterian, and Strahl says the shows are always packed.
“Tomáseen makes the evening feel like the holiday season back on the Irish farm. When the family gets together, they tell stories, they sing songs and dance.”
Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
“Magnify, the Words of Mary”
Rogue Valley Chorale
Dec. 1-2, 3 p.m., Craterian Theater, Medford
“Dvorak’s Mass in D Major”
Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m., SOU Music Recital Hall, Ashland
Dec. 8-9, 3 p.m. SOU Music Recital Hall, Ashland
Chamber Music Series Holiday Concert
Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon
Dec. 8, 2 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Jacksonville
Dec. 9, 2 p.m., Grace Lutheran Church, Ashland
Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra
Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Ashland
Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., Parkway Christian Center, Grants Pass
Southern Oregon Repertory Singers
Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., SOU Music Recital Hall, Ashland
Dec. 16, 3 p.m., SOU Music Recital Hall, Ashland
Singalong with Maestro Lynn Sjolund
Dec. 16, 4 p.m.
Craterian Theater, Medford
“A Celtic Christmas with Tomaseen Foley”
Dec. 22, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Craterian Theatre, Medford