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Rogue Valley Chorale kicks off 2021-22 season with ‘Christmas Messiah’

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneThe Rogue Valley Chorale rehearses at Medford First Christian Church.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneThe Rogue Valley Chorale rehearses at Medford First Christian Church.

The Rogue Valley Chorale Association will open its 2021-22 season with three performances of “Christmas Messiah” Dec. 4-5, featuring the Chorale and the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra.

The season also includes “May You Always Have a Song” Jan. 22, featuring the RVCA youth choruses; “Give My Regards” March 18-20, featuring the music of Broadway; a May 21 concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Children’s Chorus; and “This Land” July 7-9, a tribute to American music.

It will be RVCA’s first “regular” season in nearly two years. The association fared better than many arts organizations during the pandemic, performing for a live audience at Grizzly Peak Winery last summer, and producing a project in 2020 for “Holiday Faire” on the Southern Oregon PBS station, a show that went national on the PBS streaming service.

With the pandemic easing, choir members have been able to resume live rehearsals.

“We have been rehearsing in-person since mid-October,” said Michael Morris, artistic director.

The Chorale is opening its season later than in pre-pandemic times.

“Before COVID, our traditional season started in September and closed in late May,” Morris said. “We are attempting to get back to familiar seasons. And yes, there will be a holiday concert in December of 2022.”

‘Christmas Messiah’

In most cities with strong arts communities, it wouldn’t be the holidays without a performance of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.” Medford is no exception.

The 90-voice RV Chorale, in concert with the 17-piece Jefferson Baroque Orchestra, will present three performances of “Christmas Messiah” at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave. in Medford. Concert times are 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4; and at 3 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5.

“We adopted that name for the concert because we are highlighting Part 1,” Morris said, “which is often called the Christmas segment.”

Fans of Handel’s oratorio will not be disappointed to learn that the concert also will include the iconic “Hallelujah Chorus” as well as the final movement of the work, which includes “Worthy is the Lamb” and “The Great Amen.”

Handel scored “Messiah” for a small orchestra of stringed instruments, trumpets, timpani and harpsichord.

“We are very fortunate to be collaborating with the Jefferson Baroque Orchestra,” Morris said.

Its members, under the direction of Morgan O’Shaughnessy, play on period instruments or modern copies in order to recapture the transparent timbres and lively articulation of orchestras in the 18th Century.

Featured vocal soloists include Jennifer Matsuura, soprano; Shelly CoxThornhill, mezzo-soprano; Colin Campbell, tenor; and Jose Rubio, bass.

“We are very excited to have engaged these amazing artists,” Morris said. “They have made their mark not only in Southern Oregon, but nationally and internationally as well.”

Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students and children. They can be purchased at craterian.org or at the Craterian Theater box office, 16 S. Bartlett, downtown Medford, phone 541-779-3000.

Youth Winter Concert

On Jan. 22, the association’s three youth groups — the Children’s Chorus (third- to sixth-graders), Cantare Chorus (sixth- to eight-graders), and the Youth Ensemble (high schoolers) — will perform “May You Always Have a Song” at 3 p.m. at North Medford High School auditorium, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

“The Children’s Chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season,” said Brad Nelson, executive director.

After a sharp pandemic decline from nearly 200 young singers, the association is in the process of rebuilding.

“We are up to about 90 in the three youth choruses,” Nelson said. “We hope to be back to pre-pandemic numbers soon. After our January concert, we will hold another audition for interested third- to twelfth-graders.”

Tickets to the concert are $10 for adults, $5 for students, and will be available at the door.

‘Give My Regards’

Broadway star Carter Calvert will headline “Give My Regards,” RV Chorale’s tribute to the music of The Great White Way. Performances are set for March 18-19 at 7:30 p.m. and March 20 at 3 p.m. at the Craterian.

Known for her smoldering voice, Calvert has performed in Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and toured nationally and internationally in companies of such shows as “Cats,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” “Always Patsy Cline” and many others.

Featured local soloists will be baritone Dan Fowler, soprano Rachel Nelson, tenor Ken McPherson and other Chorale members. Back-up music will be provided by RV Chorale’s own Mikiko Petrucelli on piano and Calvert’s husband, Roger Cohen, on drums.

The program will include songs from “Guys and Dolls,” “Les Miserables,” and many other iconic Broadway shows.

Nelson has worked with Carter on several Broadway-style touring shows.

“She’s a wonderful person with a spectacular voice,” he said. “We’re excited to have both her and Roger coming in from New York.”

Purchase tickets at the Craterian box office or website: $25 for adults and $10 for students.

40th Anniversary Youth Choruses Concert

A concert on May 21 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Children’s Chorus.

Still in the planning stages, the concert will be performed at 3 p.m. on the Craterian stage. Tickets will be $10 for adults, $5 for students.

The Children’s Chorus was started 40 years ago by Doris Sjolund, wife of founding artistic director Lynn Sjolund, who formed the Chorale 50 years ago.

“We hope to reconnect with many of the students who have been a part of our program for the past 40 years,” Nelson said.

‘This Land’

A celebration of American music is the theme of “This Land,” the Chorale’s summer concert. Performances will be at 7 p.m. July 7-8-9 at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada, Ashland.

The Chorale will reprise some of the songs they will perform in a massed choir concert in Washington D.C. next Memorial Day, along with other American selections.

“The Chorale has been invited to participate in the National Memorial Day Choral Festival in 2022,” Morris said. “Choirs from all over the U.S. will come together under the direction of Dr. Craig Jessop, former Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force music programs and former music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

The Chorale will join other choirs in performing for the opening of the Memorial Day Parade and will sing at a special wreath-laying ceremony prior to the concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Grizzly Peak Winery performances will be RVCA’s last concerts of the 2021-22 season.

The 2022-23 season, beginning with the Chorale’s winter concert, will be announced next May.

For more information and frequent updates, go to roguevalleychorale.org.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.