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Songs and fun for the whole family

Looking for a way you and your whole family can enjoy something together? How about a night of nostalgia, laughter, music, song and vocal participation? If that sounds like fun, then head to the Craterian to hear — and sing with — Viva Voce, the community sing-along band.

For the fifth consecutive year, Viva Voce will be presenting its concert for the new year. The evening begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, on the main stage of the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All ages are welcome. There are no reserved seats and admission is free.

Craterian director Stephen McCandless decided that he wanted to support the concerts as part of the theater's community mission and not charge admission. Not charging for the concerts helps to break down the wall between the performers and the audience. It also makes it easier to bring the whole family.

The music is familiar and the fun is contagious. "Last year, for example, on our closing number 'Hey Jude' the entire place was on their feet, waving lit cell phones back and forth in the air, as they thunderously sang along — reminiscent of the old days when we did same with lighters," Viva Voce cofounder Tish McFadden wrote in a press release announcing the concert.

"It was crazy fun," she continued. "The place was packed. We want everyone in our valley to know they too can be a part of making music.

For this one event a year, they are invited to sing their hearts out during a live show at the Craterian.

"What ever in the world could make us more human than that?"

Viva Voce includes McFadden, Brian Freeman, Don Harriss, Mike Vediner, Steve Fain, Lynn Fain, Rick Soued and Joanne Soued. Everyone in the group sings and between them they play guitar, mandolin, piano, banjo, upright bass and flute.

Rick Soued calls the group "The Human Jukebox." The audience calls out requests from a printed song list of more than 100 titles and the band obliges, inviting everyone to sing along with them.

Most of the songs on the request list come from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Also on the list are "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz"; Woody Guthrie's "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You" penned back in 1940; and a Stephen Foster tune, "Hard Times," from 1855. There are also some undated traditional songs like "Amazing Grace." They are songs that most people from little kids to grandparents will recognize. They are songs they grew up with and will delight in singing together.

The group does not attempt to replicate the exact sound of the original songs. It's more about recalling memories.

The Craterian Theater offers this concert as a community-building event and welcomes residents of the Rogue Valley as their guests for this night of nostalgia, laughter, music and song.

For McFadden, the concert provides an environment where people can sing, whatever era the song is from.

"It happens every year," she said. "We just want to fill the place."

Tickets to the event are free. Call 779-3000.

Viva Voce cofounder Tish McFadden wants people to know that they can be a part of a live show at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater. - Bob Pennell