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SO Rep Singers brings old favorites, new content to viewers

Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, like many other arts organizations in the Rogue Valley, has been creatively nimble in response to pandemic limitations on live performances.

Forced to cancel its 2020 concerts in May, October and December and the March 2021 New Works Festival, Rep Singers is taking a wait and see approach to the May 2021 concert.

“We are not optimistic at this point,” said Executive Director Richard Seidman. “Since rehearsals need to start about 10 weeks prior to a concert, it likely will not be feasible.”

To maintain connections with its subscribers and fans, Rep Singers has launched a free online series via its YouTube channel, where past performances are archived.

On Oct. 29, part two of an interview by conductor Paul French of choral composer Eric Whitacre was posted, along with a concert clip. Whitacre’s last recording featured him conducting a virtual choir of more than 17,000 singers from around the world.

“Whitacre, too, was lamenting the loss of contact and a feeling that he was alone,” French said. “What keeps me going is knowing we will get through this by staying safe, and this enforced isolation is part of the solution.”

Next on the digital front for the Rep Singers is a Nov. 12 posting of French’s interview with soprano Jeffri Lynn Carrington and a concert clip of “Prayer for a Guardian Angel” in which Carrington is the featured soloist.

Carrington has been an avid singer since the age of 4. She began taking private voice lessons when she was 12 years old. Over the past 15 years, she has performed in a variety of groups and styles, including jazz ensembles and many choral and chamber music groups. She’s currently working on recording an album of her original music.

A versatile artist, Carrington is involved with several Ashland groups in addition to Rep Singers. They include a duo with guitarist Jeff Stanley called Jeffri & Jeff, performing originals, covers, and jazz; a classical a cappella duo with Zoe LaTerreur called Accapellaré; a nine-piece Zimbabwean-style marimba band called Rutendo; and an indie pop group called Venus Exalted, playing select covers and originals.

“Prayer for a Guardian Angel” is a work by renowned English composer Patrick Hawes. It was first heard in Ashland at Rep Singers’ “First Light: The James M. Collier Festival of New Choral Music,” performed in March of 2019.

That performance, with Carrington as soloist, is the featured clip on the Nov. 12 program.

On Nov. 27, another digital program will be posted on which French discusses current and upcoming programming. It will also include a clip or two of past performances.

December online for Rep Singers will feature two separate programs on the 10th and 24th. In addition to traditional holiday music from past performances, several newly recorded pieces will be presented.

The featured singers on the new clips are Carrington, soprano Jennifer Matsuura, alto Shelly Cox-Thornhill, tenor Phil Koenig and bass Nick Tennant.

They will be accompanied by Laurie Ann Hunter on harp and Jodi French on piano and organ.

“There will be selections from across the repertoire,” French said, “including sacred and secular carols, Latin motets and audience favorites such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘O Holy Night’.”

Clips from past concerts include “Ave Maria” from Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, “Glow” by Whitacre, “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” by Edward Caswall and Sir John Goss, and “Noel” by Todd Smith.

New recordings will include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Candlelight Carol” by John Rutter, “This Endris Night” from the 15th century, “I Sing of a Maiden,” and “In Dulci Jubilo,” with origins in the early 1300s.

It’s not an easy task preparing the new recordings during COVID-19 times.

“The small group of singers will rehearse for 20 minutes, masked and socially distanced in one building, then record for 20 minutes in a different building while the rehearsal room is aired out,” French said.

“Meanwhile, the recording room is sprayed with a disinfectant. After a short break, we’ll repeat the process. It’s going to be very cumbersome but safe.”

Recording new performances was important to French.

“It’s not just the singers who miss our performances,” he said. “So do our audiences. Many people have emailed me and told me how much they are missing our music. This is a safe way we can afford our community a glimpse of normality and beauty.”

A sponsor came forward to support the Rep Singers’ holiday recordings, but the organization is still looking for additional funding to help pay ongoing expenses.

For updates, a link to the YouTube channel, and to support Rep Singers, go to repsingers.org.

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

Although Southern Oregon Repertory Singers isn’t performing live during the pandemic, clips of past performances and new programming featuring soloists and small groups are being posted on the group’s YouTube channel, with new content added throughout the season. SO Rep Singers photo.