'Music from throughout our history'

More than two centuries of American folk, chorale and swing traditions will comprise the Siskiyou Singers' semi-annual concert series this weekend.

The choir will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, May 14, at the Grants Pass Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., and at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 15, and 4 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The Siskiyou Singers, formed in 1982 by Jacqueline Dougherty, is a grass roots community choir. Originally a chamber group, the choir now comprises more than 100 members.

This year's spring concert has been dubbed "America Sings" and will feature 23 enduring favorites by great American composers including Stephen Foster, Aaron Copland, Cole Porter and Leonard Bernstein.

"I really tried to choose things from different time periods and have a good representation of music from throughout our history," says music director Mark Reppert.

Reppert says the program will not be presented as a time line of American music, but rather a cross section of songs that can be recognized as American favorites, each in its own right.

Such songs include Foster's "Nelly Bly" and "Some Folks;" Copland's 19th-century workmen's tune, "The Boatmen's Dance," his comic tune, "I Bought Me a Cat" and his arrangement of the old spiritual, "Zion's Wall," as well as Randall Thompson's beloved "Frostiana," a musical rendition of well-known Robert Frost poems.

The 18th-century composer William Billings will be the oldest composer represented. The choir will present his American Revolution war anthem, "Chester," and his canon, "When Jesus Wept."

Reppert says "Cloudburst" by contemporary composer Eric Whiteacre was one of the most challenging pieces in the program.

"That piece is filled with difficult contemporary harmonies," he says. "When I say contemporary, I'm talking about going beyond a traditional tonal music ... also rhythmically, it's very challenging, plus there are many sections in which the singers perform randomly and individually, in other words, not protected by the rest of the group."

The choir will be accompanied by Joseph Yungen, a piano performance student at SOU. "America Sings" will be Yungen's last concert series with the Siskiyou Singers after more than five years as resident accompanist. This fall, Yungen will attend Eastman School of Music in Roschester, N.Y., where he plans to study piano performance and literature as well as accompanying and chamber music.

The young piano virtuoso will be the featured soloist in William Bolcolm's work, "The Serpent's Kiss."

Tickets to "America Sings," are $15 and $5 for students. Tickets are available in Ashland at Tree House Books, Music Coop and Paddington Station, and in Medford at the Grocery Outlet. For more information, call 541-482-5290 or visit www.siskiyousingers.org.

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