'Five Choirs, One Voice'
In a big celebration of social justice, world peace and environmental stewardship, five peace choirs, including Ashland’s, will stage a concert called “Five Peace Choirs — One Voice,” and a panel and speakers will address the immigration crisis, with dozens of social progress groups “tabling,” providing information and volunteer opportunities, on Sunday, Feb. 11.
The choirs, from Portland; Eugene; Mendocino County, California; and Ashland will perform from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Southern Oregon University’s Music Recital Hall. The well-attended event is free, with donations to cover expenses welcome at the door.
Tabling, sponsored by United Nations Alliance USA SOU, is from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Rogue River Room of SOU’s Stevenson Union and will include groups from campus and community, including Peace House, Ashland Culture of Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, Oregon Student Association, Jobs With Justice, Pachamama Alliance, SOU Cultural Resource Center and more.
SOU President Linda Schott will deliver the keynote talk in the union, followed by a speech on “How U.S. immigration laws affect us all” from Medford immigration attorney John Almaguer, followed by a panel discussion on DACA and the immigration controversy. Moderating the panel will be SOU English professor Alma Rosa Alvarez.
Kathleen Gamer, president of the 12-year old UNA-USA-SOU, says, “We are one. We’re trying to bring the community and students together to cooperate more and become more aware of that. We need to have social justice in all areas, but this area is especially about DACA and undocumented immigrants.
“They’re really worried,” she said. For more information on the immigration project, email her at email@example.com.
The title of the concert comes from “One Voice” by the Wailin’ Jennys, says Rogue Valley Peace Choir Director Rob Griswell-Lowry. “Throughout human history, when people gather together as one loving heart with one sincere voice, change and growth inevitably follows,” he said.
The choirs rotate to sing at each other’s venues every four to five years and, says Griswell-Lowry, “It’s uplifting, educational and passionate. Last time we all played Ashland, we played to a full house. Many people leaving at the end were deeply moved and expressed that.
“What makes the difference, I think, is community concern that these groups choose their music democratically, as submitted and voted on by singers, so they’re really invested in what they’re singing about,” he says. “They sing because they love to sing and believe strongly in singing for peace, social justice and the planet.”
Asked if members have a different frame of mind because of the country’s more contentious political climate, Griswell-Lowry said “No, but I would say the climate has galvanized the membership to be more active than ever before. The attitude has not changed at all. It’s just more important to use our voices now and come together as one voice.”
His wife, Kim, a soprano in the choir, says, “It’s a unique opportunity to see five peace choirs all sing, each for 20 minutes, all in a row … It solidifies members in this annual opportunity to spend time with each other and hear each other sing and discover music we may not know and will sing in the future.”
The concert program describes the choirs:
• The Rogue Valley Peace Choir, now in its 15th season, is a secular choir dedicated to peace, equality, social justice and stewardship of the planet through song. The 90-member choir is accompanied by Mikiko Petrucelli.
• The Emandal Chorale, under the direction of Don Willis, is a community chorus in Mendocino County, California. The choir sings contemporary and traditional songs from around the world, mostly a cappella. The music embraces diversity, inclusiveness, peace, justice and healing for the planet.
• The Portland Peace Choir sings music from diverse cultures and traditions that inspire peace in one’s self, family, community and the world. The choir is led by Kristin Gordon George and accompanied by Amy Vanacore.
• The Eugene Peace Choir, formed in 1984, is the oldest of the five Peace Choirs. It combines music, message and community to contribute to the common good. Conductor David Eisenband is a composer, choral singer and music educator.
• Eugene’s In Accord Community Choir, conducted by Maureen Robeson, provides a choral voice to support the efforts of many groups that strive to better its community and the world.
A multimedia sculpture, “One World,” by Ashlander Wataru Sugiyama, will be on display at the event. It shows people erasing national borders on the globe and working in cooperation and harmony. After the event, it will be installed at Willow Wind School.
The concert is partially funded through a city of Ashland lodging tax revenue grant. The Rogue Valley choir’s website is: roguevalleypeacechoir.org.
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.