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Ninety-eight years of band music

Did you know there is a band in town that has been together for 98 years? It's the Southern Oregon Concert Band and it will present its free annual spring concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, at Mountain Avenue Theater, Ashland High School, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

Back in 1909 when the band got started, it was called the Hillah Temple Shrine Band. Over the years, it has evolved into a broad-based all-volunteer community ensemble, with players from a dozen or so communities in the Rogue Valley.

The band's members range in age from high school students to senior citizens. They come from all walks of life and varying levels of musicianship from professional to hobbyists. And there are those who have picked up their instruments again after years of not playing.

The Southern Oregon Concert band chooses music that is designed to please its audiences. The group plays music written originally for band as well as transcriptions of orchestral music.

This year's spring concert will include concert works and popular music showcasing a variety of music and cultures.

As part of the program, baritone Neil Wilson will sing selections from Aaron Copland's "Old American Songs." Wilson has sung as a soloist and in supporting roles with major opera companies and symphonies across the Unites States and Germany. He also has had an academic career with university music faculties in Oregon, Texas and Virginia.

Wilson has appeared in leading and supporting roles with Portland Opera, Eugene Opera, Opera Southwest, Boise Civic Opera, San Antonio Chamber Opera, Oregon Repertory Theatre, Opera Roanoke and other regional companies. He has been soloist in works by Gustaf Mahler and Carl Orff with Atlanta Ballet, Richmond Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Wilson's previous solo performances in Southern Oregon were with the Rogue Valley Symphony in 1984 when he sang Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer with conductor Yair Strauss.

The Copland songs Wilson will sing include: "The Boatman's Dance," an original banjo melody by Old Dan Emmett who later composed "Dixie"; "Simple Gifts," a favorite song of the Shakers; "Zion's Walls," a revivalist song; and "Ching-a-ring Chaw," a minstrel song.

The concert also will include selections from Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," Johan de Meij's "Hobbits" from "The Lord of the Rings," Alfred Reed's Sixth Suite for Band and his "Armenian Dances," and Jack End's "Blues for a Killed Kat."

In addition, Harry Kannasto on trumpet and Frank Brugman and Steve Arrasmith on clarinets will perform extended solos in Johan DeMeij's "Klezmer Classics" that will also feature percussionist Garrett Edmands on accordion and spoons.

See www.socband.org.