Five community peace choirs from northern California and Oregon will join voices in “Choral Kaleidoscope,” a free, family-friendly concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15. The program will feature music from every genre, including classical, traditional, folk, jazz and “world music” with its African and Cuban rhythms.
Ashland’s Rogue Valley Peace Choir hosts the event, along with the SOU United Nations Club. The concert will be held at the Southern Oregon University Recital Hall, 405 S. Mountain Ave. Tickets are not required.
Other participants include the Emandal Chorale from Willits, Calif., the Portland Peace Choir, the Eugene Peace Choir and the In Accord Community Choir from Eugene. The combined concert is a yearly event, with the venue rotating among the choirs. Ashland last held the event in 2011.
The peace choirs are nondenominational and choose their repertory from songs with themes of world peace and social justice.
“Peace choirs are a growing movement,” says Rob Griswell-Lowry, director of the Rogue Valley Peace Choir. “People want to do something to further world peace. We see our singing as a stone for peace sent outwards to create ripples, affecting others.”
Each choir will perform for 20 minutes with all the choir members coming together at the finale to sing “Finlandia,” the hymn to peace by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
The Rogue Valley Peace Choir’s selections include “The Water Song” from Kenya, sung in the Dholuo language; “How Long,” written by well-known local vocal jazz arranger Kirby Shaw; “Never Gonna Sit Down,” a gospel-style call to perseverance in the struggle for justice; and the popular Amish hymn, “Simple Gifts.”
In addition to the free public performance, the choirs will host a musical workshop, led by world music teacher and choral director Val Rogers, featuring African music and movement. The workshop is from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14 at the First United Methodist Church, 715 N. Main St., Ashland. Tickets cost $20 if purchased in advance or $25 at the door. For more information, call Mike Evans at 541-840-7396.
Workshop attendees will also present a program during Sunday’s Choral Kaleidoscope concert.
The participating peace choirs range in size from the 25-member Eugene Peace Choir to the 100-plus member Portland Peace Choir. The 40-member Emandal Chorale started in 1995 as a small community chorus in Mendocino County, Calif., while the similarly sized In Accord Community Choir was founded specifically to support local groups in their efforts to better the Eugene community.
As Julia Linebarger-Taylor, Eugene Peace Choir coordinator and a former Ashland resident, said in a recent video about the organization, “We sing songs with a purpose.”
The Rogue Valley Peace Choir, founded in 2003 by the late Dave Marston, has 115 members. It performs from September through June, traveling from Ashland to Eugene, Portland and Seattle with a repertoire of songs celebrating peace, social justice and the preservation of the earth. In 2006, the group traveled to Hiroshima, Japan, the site of the first wartime use of the atomic bomb, to sing for peace.
Griswell-Lowry became music director of the Rogue Valley Peace Choir three years ago after a year directing the Peace Choir’s 20-member Ensemble group. He is also the musical director and accompanist at Ashland’s First Congregational United Church of Christ and has been a member and soloist with the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers and the choir at Ashland’s Trinity Episcopal Church.
“The Ashland Peace Choir is the most meaningful musical endeavor I’ve ever had the privilege of being involved with,” says Griswell-Lowry. “It makes me feel like I can make a difference in the world.”
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.