Folk and choral traditions from around the world sung in various languages do more than challenge most vocalists — they also offer looks at particular cultural times and resonate with experiences.
"The music has so many qualities to it," says Rogue World Ensemble's founder Megan Danforth. "Whether it's celebrating the birth of a child, mourning the death of a loved one, or celebrating a feast or a season, it's connected to a particular culture. When you sing this music, it enriches you as a person and augments your own experiences."
Danforth and her ensemble, under the direction of music director Shaun Garner, will present "Gather 'Round," a program of music from American folk traditions such as gospel, shape note and Appalachian, along with songs from South Africa, Caucasus, Israel, Morocco, Romania, Ukraine, and 16th-century Spain and Peru.
The show is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, at Temple Emek Shalom, 1800 E. Main St., Ashland. Tickets cost $12 in advance and can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.org or Heart & Hands, 255 E. Main St. Tickets will cost $15 at the door. Children 5 and younger get in for $5. Call 541-601-5310 or see www.rogueworldensemble.org for information.
"We're calling it 'Gather 'Round' with the theme of initiating the holiday season with sacred and secular music," Danforth says. "One song, 'Verbum Caro Factum Est,' is a 16th-century caroling piece. We'll put it next to a South African harvest song, "Skhandamayeza," and a silly English carol, "Bring Good Ale," about getting drunk on Christmas.
"We sing the pieces the way they were meant to be sung," she says. "We don't revise or modify them. We might sing South African music, which is so fun because it's filled with dancing, then turn around and sing something that's 1,000 years old and was sang in a stone cathedral in Eastern Europe. The experiences are amazing."
Rogue World Ensemble's shows are full of theatrics, dance and broad programs. Omada Kosmos — Stephen Gagne, clarinet and wind instruments; Olaf Soderback, piano accordion and Swedish Nyckelharp; Kevin Carr, Bulgarian tambura, oud, French bagpipe, viola and guitar; Bryan Jeffs, percussion; and Helen Vaskevitch, electric bass — will play accompaniment for the show.
Danforth grew up singing folk music with her father.
"It was a very bluesy, very folky style sang from my chest," she says. "When you sing Bulgarian pieces with haunting harmonies, you have to find a different vocal technique to accomplish them. All of the different vocal styles, tones, timbres and sounds you need to sing let you discover a wider landscape to create music."
Danforth gathered 15 other singers and founded the ensemble in 2009. After a round of auditions, the number grew to 22.
"The biggest section we had to work on was the men's section," she says. "Now we have 11 male singers, a third of the choir. 'Gather 'Round' will showcase 32 singers."
She insists that the choir's repertoire remain in the world folk music traditions.
"There's a big learning curve for just about anyone who joins the chorus," Danforth says. "It's quite challenging to learn to sing in 15 different languages. I feel strongly about the transformative aspect of the experience. There's opportunity to grow and become a strong singer within the choir."
Auditions are always open, she says. Anyone interested in singing with the ensemble can call 541-664-3393 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.