The Rogue Valley Chorale will present its 35th anniversary concert. - Photo by Brian Prechtel

The Rogue Valley Chorale turns 35

The Rogue Valley Chorale will celebrate its 35th year with a concert featuring selections from the group's previous 34 years of performing. The concert will be presented twice: at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, and again at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

Back in 1973, a group of 38 singers joined together to form the Rogue Valley Chorale. The chorale now boasts a roster of more than 100 and an active choir of more than 90.

Many of the world's great masterpieces have been sung for Southern Oregon audiences, including all of Bach's large works, Mendelssohn's "Elijah," the requiems of Verdi, Bach, Mozart, Fauré, and Duruflé. In addition, the chorale has performed Handel's "Messiah" several times and also his oratorios "Judas Maccabeaus" and "Israel in Egypt."

The Chorale has traveled to Europe on five concert tours, most recently during July 2006, and appeared as a featured choir in concert in New York's Carnegie Hall.

For the Craterian performances, Gary Lovre will serve as narrator and Andrea Brock will be the accompanist. As he has for 31 of the 34 years, Lynn Sjolund will direct.

Sjolund has directed festival groups and adjudicated choruses around the country. His tenure with the chorale began with its founding and he has been with the chorale ever since, except for three years when he was director of choral studies at Loyola University in New Orleans.

He has been a regular conductor for Rogue Opera and has served as president of the Oregon Music Educators Association and the Northwest Music Educators Association. Locally, he worked on the renovation of the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater and he currently serves on a committee for the Oregon Community Foundation. He conducted the Chorale at New York's Carnegie Hall, and in March 2002 he received the "award of merit for a lifetime of excellence in choral music" from the Northwest American Choral Directors Association.

In October 2002 the Arts Council of Southern Oregon presented him with its lifetime achievement award." In addition, Sjolund has received the Distinguished Alumnus award from the University of Oregon School of Music "in recognition of a lifetime commitment to public service through music."

"The women who pushed us into getting started are still singing and still eager to see the group performs well," Sjolund said in a press release. "It has been the music, always the music, that has been the glue to hold the group together. Whenever we start a new program there is an excitement about the challenges, and whenever we repeat a piece it is like welcoming an old friend."

Works like the Bach "Komm, Jesu, Komm" date from the chorale's very first program. The chorale first sang "If I Loved You" in 1980. The chorale has performed all three of Bach's masterpieces, starting with the "B Minor Mass" in 1985, followed by the "Passion According to St. John" to open the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, and finished the cycle with the "Passion According to St. Matthew" in 2003.

Philip Frohnmayer joined the chorale to perform the Block "Sacred Service" on a program of music of the Holocaust. The two productions of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" featured Chris Thompson coming to sing the title role and with special costuming designed by Jeannie St. Germain. "The Most Happy Fella" was done as a semi-staged work and gave singers and audience the opportunity to be part of one of Broadway's most difficult and moving musical plays.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for students. Call 779-3000.

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