'Journey in Peace'

In the words of songwriter and guitarist David Roth, "Each of us has the power to bring about changes."

The line, extracted from Roth's song "Earth," encapsulates the message of Rogue Valley Peace Choir, says Director Heather Hutton.

"We sing a lot about shared responsibility and equality, and I really think that the model of the choir is one that puts that into practice," says Hutton.

The local chorale, featuring about 100 members between the ages of 18 and 91, will present its eighth annual concert, titled "Journey in Peace," at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, and 7 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at the Medford Congregational United Church of Christ, 1801 E. Jackson St., and the First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St., Ashland, respectively.

The concerts will encompass a variety of music traditions ranging from plaintive ballads and upbeat pop songs to Americana. The choir selected each song for its environmental, communal, social and peace-promoting themes.

"The songs are all very uplifting, energizing and inspirational," says Hutton.

The set includes 13 songs performed by the full choir, including "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King," the '70s classic "Age of Aquarius," "We Shall Be Free" by Garth Brooks, the bilingual "La Musica" by Jay Althouse, "I Ain't Afraid" by Holly Near and the title song "Journey in Peace" by Andy Beck and Ben Cohn, which incorporates a Hebrew prayer.

In addition, there are several a cappella pieces featured, including "Draw up the Water," composed by James E. Clemens with lyrics by David Wright. The piece proved to be the choir's biggest challenge for its tricky rhythms, different entrances and overlapping parts.

A 24-voice, breakout ensemble will perform two songs separate from the choir — Seth Houston's "Big Bay" and Sandy O and Pat Humphries' "Kilimanjaro," a statement of global warming as seen by snowmelt on the African peak.

Pianist Jennifer Schloming will accompany the choir, and three pieces feature choir members on guitar, percussion and flute.

"The material supports messages of individual and collective responsibility for the kind of world that we want to live in," sums up Hutton.

The choir performs at various events and celebrations around Southern Oregon in keeping with their mission statement to create peace through song.

Admission to the concerts is free, but donations will be accepted. Coffee, tea and cookies will be available after the performance. For more information, call 541-499-3223 or see www.sing4peace.org.

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