The Southern Oregon University Chamber Choir will be part of a choir gala concert Wednesday. - Southern Oregon University

The canons of great composers

Two of the choral canon's greatest composers, Joseph Haydn and George Frederic Handel, have birthdays coming up. And what better way to celebrate than to gather four Rogue Valley choruses for a concert featuring works by the two birthday boys?

More than 350 singers will take the stage when the Siskiyou Singers, the Rogue Valley Chorale and the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers join with the Southern Oregon University Chamber Choir in a concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Each choir will perform separately, including in its performance at least one master choral work by Haydn or Handel, and the evening will conclude with a mass choir performance of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus." The profits from the first performances of Handel's "Messiah" were donated to charity. The profits from this concert will benefit the choral program at SOU and specifically the SOU Chamber Choir's upcoming European tour of Leipzig, Berlin, and Prague.

"They're really good. They're very talented singers," SOU music professor Paul French said of the Chamber Choir. The choir was honored with an invitation to perform at Bach's home church in Leipzig during the weekend celebration of his birthday and to perform at a high-level international festival in Prague.

"The whole region should be very proud of the invitation," French said. "This is a very big deal."

French sent in an hourlong a cappella audition tape. Selection for both of these events is a very significant accomplishment. Once the group had been chosen, organizers told French he should bring 700 programs for the concert.

Forty students will be travelling to Europe. For many of them, it will be the first time they have been outside of Oregon.

"These kids deserve a top-notch education," French said. "We've got to take care of these kids. You shouldn't have to be rich to have experiences like this. It's what an education should be. We should sing our best and our best should be as good as anyone. Aim for real artistry, not survival."

French sees the Medford concert as an opportunity for the public to invest in the students and support higher education in a meaningful way. SOU raised two-thirds of the cost of the trip.

People who care about the arts have to unite and invest strategically in the next generation, French said. That's why he asked the other choir directors to join in.

"We have a good relationship," he said. "They've both been terrific. Imagine, being asked to sing for free to raise money for SOU students."

The four choirs had a good time the last time they performed together, which was the 2006 Mozart concert. The SOU choir then went to Ashland's sister city of Guanajuato, Mexico, to give a series of concerts.

Featured works on the program at the Craterian include the Siskiyou Singers, under the direction of Dave Marston, performing one of Brahm's "Gypsy Songs" as well as a rousing chorus from Haydn's "Creation"; the Rogue Valley Chorale, under the direction of Lynn Sjolund, performing the festive "Sing Unto God" from Handel's "Judas Maccabeus" and the "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Fauré; Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, under the direction of French, performing one of Haydn's most charming partsongs, "Alles hat seine Zeit" ("Everything Has Its Time") and a virtuosic chorus from Handel's "Dixit Dominus"; and the Southern Oregon University Chamber Choir, also under the direction of French, performing selections from its upcoming European tour.

Tickets are $15 for all seats. Call 779-3000.

Share This Story