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Local choir will encore Carnegie Hall performance

Fresh from a once-in-a-lifetime performance on the main stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Southern Oregon’s 3 Rivers Chorale will deliver an encore of Ola Gjeilo’s “Dreamweaver” music next weekend in Cave Junction and Grants Pass.

“Ola is a young Norwegian composer currently in residence at Carnegie Hall, and ‘Dreamweaver’ is his grand new work,” said 3 Rivers Choir Director Kate Campbell. “It’s based on a medieval Norwegian folk poem, and really, it sounds like it should be a soundtrack for an epic film. We’ll also perform a second work from the Carnegie concert, based on a text by Walt Whitman, called “Song of the Universal.” This is a joyful piece that affirms life and lifts everyone’s spirits.”

The community choir from Grants Pass was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall after a talent scout discovered the music of 3 Rivers Chorale online last August while sifting through hundreds of small choirs from around the world.

“This was such a tremendous honor,” Campbell said. “Usually a performance at this level requires an audition process.”

The April 15 concert at Carnegie Hall brought 22 small choirs together to perform Gjeilo’s dramatic ethereal music, and the combined choir of 250 singers included 26 members of 3 Rivers Chorale, who made the pilgrimage to perform the “Dreamweaver” music on one of the world’s most prestigious stages.

3 Rivers Chorale is composed of 45 singers from the Applegate, Rogue and Illinois valleys who share a dedication to performing fine concert music in Southern Oregon. Their concerts feature an eclectic variety of music — from 500 years ago though present-day music.

3 Rivers Chorale performed Gjeilo’s “Sunrise Mass” in 2013 and 2015, with an orchestra of both professional musicians and students, so “we were so thrilled to then work with this wonderful composer in person,” said Campbell, who holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance and a Masters in Teaching Music. “We all really love his music.”

“The ‘Dreamweaver’ music is glorious,” said Susan Hall of Grants Pass, “there’s these beautiful close harmonies. And I’m grateful to Kate because of the way she worked us to perform Ola’s ‘Sunrise Mass.’ That recorded performance is what caught their eye. Our trip to Carnegie Hall is really due to Kate and her artistic vision for the choir.”

“Ola likes the lush sound of eight-part choir music,” added 3 Rivers Chorale board chair and choir member Sandy Lommel. “He creates these detailed unique harmonies.”

Lommel was “impressed” that the rehearsals in New York City, which brought together singers from the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Europe, “went so smoothly. From all the various languages and dialects, they molded our voices into one choir. It was fabulous. We all had the same thing in common, everyone was so amazed and overwhelmed by being chosen for such an honor.”

“That was an important aspect, because we all spoke English a different way,” Campbell agreed. “And now, it’ll be an interesting challenge to take what we learned about vowel pronunciation in New York City and synthesize those lessons into the rest of the choir before our two upcoming Oregon concerts.”

Several choir members reported how merely walking into Carnegie Hall was “an awe-inspiring moment,” because “it is so beautiful and the sound is so impeccable there.”

“I was a voice major in college,” said Grants Pass resident Jodie Fulton. “But even then, I never thought I’d perform at Carnegie. I never even said that out loud. This was such an unexpected opportunity, but it fulfilled a hidden dream we all have.”

“It was really fun to visit family and old school mates back in New York with the wind in my sails because I was singing at Carnegie Hall with my choir,” said Cave Junction’s Sue Lily.

“Everyone did so well, they put forth such a major investment of time, work and commitment,” said Campbell, who directs three choirs in southwest Oregon and has led 3 Rivers Chorale since 2010. “So we’re pretty excited about sharing the ‘Dreamweaver’ back home. Our performances in Grants Pass and Cave Junction will include a string orchestra and piano.

“Beyond work and other life obligations, this is what we live for: singing together and creating harmony out of nothing.” Campbell continued. “It’s like one minute there’s this silence, and then, in the next moment, there’s this eight- or 12-part harmonic magic coming from within us. As a choir, we open our mouths and this amazing sound happens. Music is universal language, and vocal harmony is like a sublime balancing act that counteracts the darkness in the world.”

The choir will perform at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at Immanuel United Methodist Church, 200 W. Watkins St., Cave Junction; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 741 NW Fourth St., Grants Pass.

Admission to the Cave Junction performance is by donation, and tickets cost $15 for the Grants Pass show. Learn more about the choir and its performances at http://3riverschorale.org.

Reach Illinois Valley freelance writer Annette McGee Rasch at annetterasch@yahoo.com.

Kate Campbell, 3 Rivers Chorale choir director, outside Carnegie Hall.
3 Rivers Chorale was one of 22 choirs that combined to perform Ola Gjeilo’s “Dreamweaver” music at Carnegie Hall in New York City April 15.