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Photo by Christopher BriscoePaul French conducts the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers' new show "Baroque Majesty."

Rogue Valley Repertory Singers present 'Baroque Majesty'

Southern Oregon Repertory Singers wraps up its 32nd season on a high note with two performances of “Baroque Majesty.”

The program of selected works is from some of the Baroque period’s most influential composers: Claudio Monteverdi, G.F. Handel and J.S. Bach. Along with Handel’s well loved Coronation Anthems “The King Shall Rejoice” and “Zadok the Priest,” the concert will include Bach’s lesser known “Missa Brevis in G minor,” his “Brandeburt Concerto No. 5 in D major,” and Monteverdi’s “Lauda Jerusalem.”

Shows are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20, in the Music Recital Hall, 405 S. Mountain Ave., at Southern Oregon University in Ashland.

Tickets are $32 or $38, $5 for students and Oregon Trail Card holders the day of the show, and can be purchased online at repsingers.org or by calling 541-552-0900.

Directed by Paul French, SORS music director and SOU’s director of choral and vocal studies, the 70-voice choir of professional singers and music educators will be accompanied by a 25-piece orchestra of baroque instruments played by some of the finest baroque players in the nation.

“We’re bringing in a group of orchestral players that play baroque instruments,” says French. “A baroque instrument is a totally different instrument than its modern counterpart, and these period players serve the music better.”

It’s been a huge undertaking to bring together a baroque orchestra of this scale, but French is confident it will be an exceptional opportunity for audiences to experience the masterpieces as they were written.

The program will open with Monteverdi’s “Lauda Jersusalem.”

“I wanted to begin the concert with a flourish,” French says. “It’s very festive and a really impressive start to the concert.”

Monteverdi bridged the change from Renaissance forms of music to the newer baroque stylings of the period — with masterpieces in each of the eras. The composer represents an ideal opener for the SORS program.

From there, Bach’s “Missa Brevis” will build a rich tapestry of both Bach’s orchestral and vocal writing, and Concerto No. 5 in D major will highlight the traverso (or flute), violin and harpsichord.

“This is the real showpiece of the event,” French says.

This piece also will feature the repertory’s own vocal talent that French describes as “virtuosic.”

“We’re using soloists for the Bach that have come out of the choir,” French says. “The caliber of the singers here is astonishingly high. No one but a professional-level singer could accomplish this music.”

Handel’s “The King Shall Rejoice” highlights the second half of the program. This piece was written for the coronation of King George II. Drawing on Psalm 21, Handel captured the themes of ceremony and patriotism so triumphantly in his four Coronations Anthems that they have been played at every royal coronation since their inception.

“It’s wonderfully expressive,” French says, “and shameless in its pomp.”

The concert will conclude with Handel’s “Zadok the Priest,” an ending that French feels puts the perfect finish on the program.

“The choir entrance at ‘Zadok the Priest’ is one of the most exciting moments in music,” he says.

The programs also include free lectures before each concert by musicologist Ed Wight, who will offer additional insights into the Baroque period, its composers and the music of the evening. The lectures begin one hour before shows in Room 132 of the music hall. Program notes are available at repsingers.org.

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