Performing without a net

"We don't need no safety net. We're out there on our own. We're singin' from deep down in our soul, and we're bad down to the bone!"

The lyrics to "A Cappella," an original piece written in 1997 by Ashland composer Kirby Shaw, reflects the spirit of the Jefferson State Choral Coalition's show, "Doin' It A Cappella."

"When you're singing a cappella, you're literally out there on a tightrope without a net," Shaw says. "I thought 'A Cappella' would be a good tune to start the concert," Shaw says. "This is the first time the choir has performed an entire concert with out being accompanied by a rhythm section.

"Doin' It A Cappella" will be presented at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The show will feature more than 70 singers — rockin,' barber-shoppin,' doo-woppin,' balladeering, holidaying, Broadwaying and country-fying the best of American popular music.

Shaw writes and arranges popular choral music full time and teaches the Jefferson State Choral Coalition at SOU.

"I've written a lot of a cappella choral arrangements," Shaw says. "It's a wonderful musical expression."

The choral ensemble will follow Shaw's song with "Without A Song," a tune by composed by Vincent Youmans. Youmans wrote popular songs and Broadway hits during the '20s and '30s.

The choir will then swing into the holiday spirit with a close-harmony-style rendition of "Up on the Housetop," a Christmas song written by Benjamin Hanby in 1864, and "When You Say Nothing At All," recorded by Alison Krauss.

The male members of the choir will step out to kick things up with the classic Tennessee Ernie Ford mining song, "16 Tons," and the ladies will take the audience from Ford's back country roads to Broadway with "I Dreamed a Dream," a tune from the award-winning musical "Les Miserables."

The choir's resident women's barbershop quartet will sing "Coventry Carol" and "Get Out and Shop." The new resident men's barbershop quartet will present "Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do" and "Happy Together." Another group from the singers will present "The Chipmunk Song."

Look for a full choir rendition of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" and a choral celebration titled "Joy Sounds."

The ensemble will give a nod to the past with a traditional folk song, "Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier," and Shaw's arrangement of "Carol of the Bells," a jazz waltz featuring new lyrics of hope, universal love and understanding.

Shaw's work has led him to specialize in popular music and jazz. The concert will end with his Caribbean-style Christmas piece titled "Jamaican Noel."

"I've always been a fan of Harry Belafonte, the Calypso-style and spirituals," Shaw says. "I've written a lot of stuff that reflects that interest."

Shaw and the choir will send the audience out with Dale Evans' classic country song, "Happy Trails."

Tickets cost $5, free for students and children, and are available at the music hall box office or by calling 541-552-6101.

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