Classical a cappella music, Christmas spirituals and a sing-along of traditional carols will highlight "Christmas With the Chorale," the Rogue Valley Chorale's 40th annual holiday concerts.
"We'll open the shows with Heinrich Schutz's 'My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord,' " says conductor Lynn Sjolund. "It was written in 1681 by the German composer for two choirs."
What: Rogue Valley Chorale
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford
Tickets: $20, $5 for students
Call: 541-779-3000 or see www.craterian.org
In this show, the second choir will be the Southern Oregon Faculty Brass Quintet, featuring Bruce Dresser and Jeff Richmond on Baroque trumpets, Cynthia Hutton on French horn, Mark Eliot Jacobs on trombone and Mike Knox on tuba.
"What audiences will hear is the choir and the quintet playing back and forth with each other," Sjolund says. "Many times, the two echo each other. At other times, it's more like call and response. It's a fulfilling and majestic sound. There are more than 100 singers in the chorale."
Concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Tickets cost $20, $5 for students, and are available at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.
Another significant piece on the program will be contemporary English composer Benjamin Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb," written in 1943.
"It's a cantata — a dramatic piece with a sacred theme," Sjolund says. "It's interesting because Britten based it on text by the 18th-century English poet Christopher Smart, who was in an insane asylum when he wrote it. It's a crazy, wonderful text about the coming of Christ, but done in an abstract way."
Anglican clergyman Walter Hussey (1909-1985) wrote that Smart was deeply religious, but of a strange, unbalanced mind, and while the piece is chaotic in form, it contains many flashes of genius, according to Sjolund.
"It's a funny, wonderful piece that is hard to perform because it goes so fast at times," he says. "It will feature solos by soprano Laura Rich, alto Jana Hogan, tenor Phillip Koenig and bass Eric Smith. Andrea Brock will accompany us on keys."
Another classical highlight will be Britten's "A Shepherd's Carol," written in 1962, with text by English poet and author W.H. Auden.
"It's got crazy text, as well, and it's written in an unusual meter," Sjolund says. "But it always goes back to its original, sacred thought. It's a transcending, little piece of music."
The chorale also will perform such Christmas spirituals as "I Wonder as I Wander," an Appalachian carol; "Mary's Little Boy Child" in a Calypso style; and a black spiritual titled "Wonderful Counselor," with soloists Ellie Holt Murray, Michael Wing and Terry Faulkner, respectively.