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Photo by Christopher BriscoeLaurie Anne Hunter conducts her final concert, "Walking in Beauty," with the Rogue Valley Chorale.

Rogue Valley Chorale: 'Walking in Beauty'

With a program title inspired by a Navajo poem, Rogue Valley Chorale’s “Now I Walk in Beauty” is a collection of songs that celebrate beauty, love and life.

The music will speak of the harmony and connectedness one experiences while walking through life, with a musical setting arranged by Mark Reppert — Chorale singer and Siskiyou Singers conductor — and featuring Lori Calhoun on alto recorder and cellist Lisa Truelove.

Rogue Valley Chorale will present “Walking in Beauty” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 3, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets are $10 and $20, $5 for students and children, and can be purchased at craterian.org, at the box office at 16. S. Bartlett St., or by calling 541-779-3000.

Poems of peace and harmony provide the lyrics for many of the songs, including James Agee’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” arranged by Morten Lauridsen, and “She Walks in Beauty,” one of Lord Byron’s most famous poems, set by composer Kevin Memley. Composer Gwyneth Walker adapted the lyrics for “The Tree of Peace” from the poem “O Brother Man” by John Greenleaf Whittier, and “For the Beauty of the Earth,” based on a text written in 1864 by Folliott Sanford Pierpoint, which was set to music by British composer John Rutter more than a century later.

Lisa Truelove performs the cello obbligato on “I Have Loved the Stars Too Fondly” by Heather Sorenson. The piece was inspired by Sarah Williams’ poem, “The Old Astronomer,” and tells of life’s ironies: joy and sadness, longing and endurance, love and loss.

The program will open with “The Voice,” a lively song made popular by the group Celtic Woman, with a solo by alto Larissa Montegna. Rogue Valley Chorale’s Youth Ensemble will join the choir during the second act with the lively “Jubilate Deo” by Peter Anglea and the traditional meeting song “No Time,” arranged by Susan Brumfield.

“Walking in Beauty” will be artistic director Laurie Anne Hunter’s final performance with the Chorale, and so the final three songs of the concert pay tribute to her five years as conductor: “Thankful,” arranged by Mark Hayes; “Until We Meet Again,” arranged by Christi Jones: and “For Good” from the Broadway musical, “Wicked.”

“It feels good to be able to present some of Laurie’s favorite music in a sort of commemorative way,” says Laura Rich, the choir’s executive director. “Even with the bitter sweetness of saying goodbye to someone we really love.”

That sense of the bittersweet emotions of love, loss, healing and hope lead Hunter’s song selection for this final concert of her tenure with the Chorale. Initially planning for the music to reflect the landscapes and natural beauty of the Chorale’s upcoming tour in Ireland this summer, but knowing it was her closing concert as conductor, Hunter soon connected with a related, but different, theme.

“Choosing the music became much more personal,” Hunter says. “Many of us in the Chorale have recently experienced the loss of loved ones, but the healing power of music and the love and support in this choral community called the Rogue Valley Chorale were really what got me through my own journey through my husband’s illness and death, and the subsequent healing and reorganizing of my own life, which continues. Many of the singers have told me how much they love the music for this concert, and I agree it may be the most beautiful collection of pieces I have ever conducted.”

The Chorale is more than 100 voices strong, and Hunter and Rich anticipate that the choir’s performances will resonate with audiences.

“This particular group of singers has learned to blend, and to sing with musical sensitivity and heart,” Hunter says. “There are so many instances in this concert program when the sound of the group is simply glorious.”

“It’s guaranteed to make people walk out the door feeling inspired,” Rich adds.

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