'Yuletide Voices'

Wolfgang A. Mozart's "Solemn Vespers of the Confessor" will be among the highlights of the "Yuletide Voices" concerts presented by the Siskiyou Singers, under the baton of Music Director Mark Reppert.

"Mozart's 'Solemn Vespers' are anything but solemn," says conductor Reppert. "They are festival pieces filled with a variety of delightful music."

"Solemn Vespers" is a set of six movements that express a wide range of feeling and use soloists, a full chorus and orchestra.

"Vespers is one of the celebrations of the Catholic church," Reppert says. "This particular set by Mozart was written in honor of a particular saint. The fifth movement, 'Laudate Dominum,' is the most famous. It's a beautiful piece for soprano with choir and orchestra accompaniment. It's included in most Mozart collections."

Siskiyou Singers' concerts are set for 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center, 830 N.E. Ninth St., and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Southern Oregon University Music Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

Mozart used texts from Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113 and 117 and Luke 1:46-55, referred to as the Magnificat, for "Vespers." He composed the 30-minute piece in 1780, and it was first performed in the Salzburg Cathedral in Austria.

The Singers, an Ashland-based community choir featuring 80 members this season, will be accompanied by a 14-piece ensemble for the Mozart work. The ensemble's members, organized by Bruce Dresser, are drawn mostly from the Rogue Valley Symphony and will feature trombones, trumpets, timpani, strings, bassoon and organ.

"Yuletide Voices" will open with "Cantique de Jean Racine" by French composer Gabriel Fauré.

"It's luscious piece based on a prayer written by 17th-century dramatist Racine," Reppert says. "It will also be presented with orchestra."

Fauré was 19 when he wrote "Cantique de Jean Racine," and he won a prize for it at the Ecole Niedermeyer Conservatory in Paris that launched his career.

Piano accompaniment will be by Mikiko S. Petrucelli. She has studied and performed extensively in Japan, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the U.S., and this is her first season with the choir.

"The choir holds an exciting bunch of singers," Reppert says. "They are a dedicated group that not only strive for perfection, but also have a delightful energy and excitement about the music."

Soloists feature Ellie Holt-Murray (soprano), Michelle Cox (alto), Andrew Brock (tenor) and Dan Gibbs (baritone).

The second half of the Siskiyou Singers' "Yuletide Voices" will include a selection of Renaissance, contemporary and traditional works to celebrate the Christmas season.

An early Renaissance work is Jean Mouton's "Ave Maria." There will be two other settings of the famous traditional text: one by Charles Gounod and another by David Conte. The latter will be presented by an octet drawn from the choir.

Also look for traditional arrangements by Alice Parker, Robert Shaw and Alfred Burt, along with solos and a sing-along of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as a final festive note.

Tickets cost $15, $5 for students and are available at Music Coop and Paddington Station in Ashland, Grocery Outlet in Medford, Aquarius Books & Gifts, Larry's Music and The Music Shop in Grants Pass or by calling 541-482-5290. Visit www.siskiyousingers.org for more about the choir.

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