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Paul French has been artistic director and conductor of the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers for 21 years. - MT file photo

Byrd, Bach and the best of them

The Southern Oregon Repertory Singers opens its 26th season with a concert aptly titled "Charms and Delights." The concert, which director Paul French describes as "tuneful, charming and elegant," will highlight six small works by Baroque and Renaissance masters.

The 40-member choral group will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The singers will be joined by an ensemble featuring Margaret Gries and Juliet Long on violins, Sherril Kannasto Wood and Tessa Brinkman on recorders, Kristen Kessler on oboe, Joanna Blendulf on Baroque cello and Jodi French on organ and harpsichord.

Featured works include the opening of Claudio Monteverdi's "L'Orfeo," as well as the composer's hymn to the Virgin Mary, "Ave Maris Stella," and selections from his eighth book of madrigals.

The chorale also will present 16th-century composer William Byrd's "Mass for Four Voices." Byrd's mass expresses a cry for peace ("dona nobis") on behalf of his fellow Catholics during a predominantly Protestant era.

The concert will close with "Trio Sonata" by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach and a piece by his father, Johann Sebastian Bach, "Aus der Tiefen, rufe ich, Herr, zu dir" ("From the depths I call, Lord, to thee"). The latter cantata is one of French's personal favorites.

“It has a lot of gravitas in the piece, and it's stunningly beautiful,” French says. “It's my favorite cantata, and I know a lot of them.”

While this concert yields itself to 16th- and 17th-century composers, future SORS concerts highlight holiday music (In Sweet Joy), “big, heroic” pieces by Mozart and Handel (Mozart and More) and modern takes on ancient melodies (Ancient Voices), French says.

“Over the course of the season, we're hitting on the different style periods,” he says.

Tickets to "Charms and Delights" cost $20, $5 for students. Tickets are available at Paddington Station and Music Coop in Ashland, Grocery Outlet in Medford, Great Northwest Music Co. in Grants Pass, at www.repsingers.org or by calling 541-552-0900.

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