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The Southern Oregon Repertory Singers

Songs of Shakespeare

The Southern Oregon Repertory Singers are finishing up their 20th year performing in Ashland with a concert of Shakespeare’s poetry set to music this Monday, July 17th at 8:30 p.m. at OSF’s Elizabethan stage. Ed White will be giving a pre-concert lecture at 7:30 p.m. at the Bill Patton Gardens, which is part of Lithia Park and located right next to the theater, to elucidate some of the musical compositions and to discuss the context for the works of Shakespeare that will be sung. The lecture is free and open to the public.

— According to Don Matthews, who is president of the board and a baritone in the group, the Repertory Singers perform a wide range of vocal music, some of which is acapella and some accompanied by harp music.

Matthews, who is also the host of JPR’s early music program, says he especially enjoys the range of music the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers performs, and the fact that they sing in French, German, and Italian in addition to English.

For this “Songs of Shakespeare” concert the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers will be joined by OSF actress Robin Goodrin-Nordli who will be reading excerpts from Shakespeare, as well as Jim Finnegan and Barry Kraft. In the past, 600-800 people have attended the concert, and Matthews hopes they will get a good turnout on Monday. Tickets are available at the door and also at Paddington Station and the Music Coop in Ashland.

Matthews says hearing Shakespeare’s words song to music is one way to understand the much loved playwright. “Shakespeare is so layered it terms of his meaning,” says Matthews, “and the music really helps bring that out.”

— Catherine Rickbone agrees. Rickbone, who moved to the Rogue Valley from Emporia, Kansas, is the new marketing and public relations director for the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. In Kansas she worked as the executive director of the Emporia Arts Council and she has been impressed with the wealth of artistic endeavors in Ashland.

— She first learned about the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers when she was meeting people, networking, and trying to decide if Ashland was the right place for her to live. A singer as well, Rickbone took a job with the chorus but herself performs with the Siskiyou Singers.

— “I hear every concert plus I go to some of the rehearsals,” says Rickbone. “One thing that really strikes me about the group is the fact that they are so professional sounding. I know they work very hard and long hours at what they do, and the director, Paul French, really works at getting the nuances and being meticulous about how things are articulated … There is an incredible amount of talent within that group.”

Rickbone says the Songs of Shakespeare concert will include several world premieres, including a premiere of an organ piece by Kelly Crandall, and some new work by Craig Kingsbury, who has composed several musical pieces for the Repertory Singers in the past. “Craig’s created a number of pieces for them,” says Rickbone.

— According to Rickbone, the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers-which is a volunteer group-is also delighted to be in partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, whose stage is hosting the concert, and whose actors will be performing in the concert.

Lines from some of Shakespeare’s best known plays, including “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “The Tempest,” and “Twelfth Night” will be featured in the concert.

— “There’s a lot of good stuff on the program,” says Matthews.

— Tickets cost $15.00 and are available on line, at the door, or at Paddington Station and The Music Coop in Ashland and Grocery Outlet in Medford.

— More information about the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers can be found at www.repsingers.org.