Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University presents the SOU Chamber Choir and SOU Concert Choir performing works by African and African-American Composers

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(Ashland, Ore.) – The Music program of the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University presents the SOU Chamber Choir, under the direction of Dr. Paul French, and SOU Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Martin Majkut, performing “Freedom Come: Music by African and African-American Composers” on Sunday, June 7 at 3:00 p.m. in the SOU Music Recital Hall.

This concert features both the “folk” and “art” traditions of African and African-American music, showcasing the high level of artistry in both genres. African folk songs are represented by “Kpanlongo,” a choral dance piece. The choirs perform African-American folk spirituals such as “Calvary” by Steven Sametz and “Sit Down Servant” by Stracey Gibbs, the newest sensation on the spiritual scene. “Horizons,” written for the South African tour of the English men’s choir King’s Singers, and “African Sanctus” by David Fanshawe, which superimposes traditional African rhythms over the Sanctus text from the Catholic Mass, are selections noted for their African choral art music tradition. Two pieces by African-American composer, Adolphus Hailstork, round out the concert by offering some of the best choral art music ever written, in any era.

“This is a fantastic time in choral music. There is more great music being composed now, than at any time in history,” said Dr. Paul French, director of choral and vocal studies at SOU. “I am so excited to offer this music to our community. Most of this music will be new to the audience. Even familiar spiritual texts will be offered in newly composed versions. I find the two Hailstork compositions to be absolutely stunning.”

Dr. Paul French is also the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers. He has extensive professional experience as singer, conductor and educator. Ensembles under his direction have performed to acclaim at prestigious six-state conventions such as the American Choral Directors Association Northwest Convention (1994, 2002), the American Guild of Organists Northwest Convention (1997), and the Oregon Music Educators National Conference (2002, 2007). In recent years, French has devoted special attention to the performance of Renaissance and Baroque music, and his performance of the Bach “Mass in b minor” was described as “beautiful and inspiring” by internationally known soprano, Julianne Baird. In 2012, iconic composer Morten Lauridsen praised French and the SOU Chamber choir as “brilliant and superb…in the top rank of university chamber choirs in the United States.”

Dr. Martin Majkut is the Music Director of the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra since 2010. He conducts in North America and Europe, dividing his time between symphonic music and opera, and received doctorates from institutions on both continents. He served as the Resident Conductor of the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera Studio Artist in Conducting. Recent guest-conducting engagements include Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2014 as well as at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Calif., the same year. He will be conducting the Slovak Sinfonietta and the Academy of Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra in Bratislava in 2015.

Jodi French accompanies both choirs. As a professional accompanist, she has performed with the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, the Rogue Valley Symphony and with virtually every other musical organization in southern Oregon.

Tickets are $10 for regular admission, $5 for senior citizens and free to full-time students. The Performing Arts Box Office is located in the Music Recital Hall lobby. Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours prior to each performance. Tickets can be purchased with a credit card over the phone by calling 541-552-6348 or online at oca.sou.edu/box-office. Contact the box office for discounts offered to SOU alumni, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute participants and SNAP/Oregon Trail cardholders.

About Southern Oregon University

Southern Oregon University provides outstanding student experiences, valued degrees, and successful graduates. SOU is known for excellence in faculty, intellectual creativity and rigor, quality and innovation in connected learning programs, and the educational benefits of its unique geographic location. SOU was the first university in Oregon—and one of the first in the nation—to offset 100 percent of its energy use with clean, renewable power, and it is the first university in the nation to balance 100 percent of its water consumption. Visit sou.edu.

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