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'My Funny Valentine'

Valentine's Day may be for lovers, but Leslie Kendall and friends have planned an evening for anyone who wants to have a good time and enjoy the feeling of community. "We're trying to talk about love from all angles," Kendall said. "Not just couples."

Kendall will be presenting "My Funny Valentine" at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Music Recital Hall of Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The singer will have a small community of her own on stage. The evening gets under way with Jodi French's intimate arrangements of five pieces for voice, cello and piano. Kendall and pianist French will be joined by cellist Ian Greenberg. Greenberg is the winner of the 2008 Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon Concerto Competition.

"He's 17," said Kendall, "and is way beyond his years. He adds such deep dimensions in the first half of the show."

By the end of the first act, an 18-piece jazz orchestra will take the stage made up of members of Kendall's backup jazz band, The Jump Daddies, and members of the Rogue Valley Symphony.

"Violins, tympany — you name it — we've got it," said Kendall. "It's going to be so fun."

Conducting the orchestra will be David MacKenzie, who prepared arrangement for strings, horns, and percussion specifically for this event.

Kendall and MacKenzie have collaborated musically since 1999. MacKenzie, who is music director and conductor of the New Bedford, Mass., Symphony and a part-time Ashland resident, said working with Kendall is exciting because of her "relentless artistry."

"She will sell a song 150 per cent," MacKenzie said in a press release. "She always gives everything she's got so there is nothing left on the table when we get through. She is a risk-taker, who captivates her audiences. With Leslie, there is always something fresh, always something new."

MacKenzie's arrangements often incorporate Latin rhythms, as in his "salsa" rendition of "Caravan" for jazz orchestra. Kendall said the program will include hot and spicy big band numbers and lush ballads from the Great American Songbook and the big band jazz era.

Celebrating 40 years of professional singing, Kendall was critically acclaimed by The Detroit News in the early 1970s as "female vocalist of the year." She has appeared in nightclubs and concert venues nationwide, including Caesar's Palace, and has recorded for Warner Brothers, M.C.A., and Columbia Records.

The Valentine's Day showcase concert is sponsored by the Rogue Valley Symphony Association to benefit the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra, now in its 41st season.

During intermission there will be a complimentary champagne reception, with organic chocolate bars provided by Ashland's own Dagoba Chocolate Company, and truffles provided by Harry & David. People will have the opportunity to arrange for a home concert package featuring a performance by members of the orchestra, or French, Greenberg and Kendall.

"In these difficult economic times," Kendall pointed out, "it's another way to bring in more money for the symphony."

Premium tickets for the Valentine's Day concert are $35, general tickets are $28, and student tickets are $10. All seats are reserved.

See rvsymphony.org or call 552-6398.

Singer Leslie Kendall will perform a Valentine’s Day concert backed up by a jazz orchestra conducted by David MacKenzie. - Bob Pennell