Tucson, AZ, February, 2024 — This spring, the Arizona Repertory Singers (ARS) pay tribute to four decades of choral virtuosity and community engagement in All the Beauty: 40th Anniversary Gala, a combination concert, reception, and fundraiser. In addition to highlighting an extraordinary history, this one-of-a-kind event affirms ARS’s commitment to future generations of singers and audiences by recognizing the contributions of two remarkable music directors who have cultivated a love of music among Tucson youth — Dr. Julian Ackerley of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Dr. Marcela Molina of the Tucson Girls Chorus.

The rich legacy of the Arizona Repertory Singers (initially called the Arizona Recital Choir) began in 1984 when doctoral student Dennis Bonner sought to create a group devoted to choral excellence, magnificent music, and community connection. The group’s artistry and reputation thrived under the direction of Dr. Jeffry A. Jahn who took the helm in 1990 and led ARS through a 25-year period of growth in musicianship, popularity, repertoire, and membership.

After Jahn’s unexpected passing in 2015, his widow Nadeen Jahn, a music educator and conductor as well as a soprano in ARS, conducted a moving tribute concert for her husband. Thomas E. Lerew (2015-16) and Dr. Elliot Jones (2017-2019) led ARS for shorter terms, and Ryan Phillips came on board as music director in 2019, ushering in a new period of innovation and vision for the group. When Covid hit, Phillips organized virtual concerts, a previously unexplored medium. “Singing remotely gave the ensemble new-found musical gifts,” says Phillips. “We gained new members and learned new ways to practice.”

The Gala concert program includes 17 selections culled from the ARS archives. Audiences may well remember beloved classics from earlier concerts, such as the dynamic “How Can I Keep from Singing?” by Z. Randall Stroope and the joyful “If Music Be the Food of Love” by David Dickau as well as a rousing spiritual from an ARS virtual concert, Stacey V. Gibbs’s “Great Day” and a newer piece by Josu Elbedin sung in English, Basque, and Latin, “Cantate Domino,” a favorite of Phillips.

Though the program focuses on celebrating past repertoire, ARS commissioned a new piece from noted Seattle-based composer Melinda Bargreen, who will attend the Gala. Entitled “For All the Beauty,” the song’s beautiful harmonies tug at the heart with lyrics that capture “why we sing,” according to piano educator and ARS board president and singer (bass) Craig Sale, “and the power of music to accompany us as a community through good times and bad.” As Bargreen’s words remind listeners, “We give our thanks without end/For each loved one and each friend.”

Looking to the future of choral music, ARS partnered for several years with Act One (a non-profit that matches arts organizations with underserved schools), reaching more than 1,900 Tucson students through their performances. Currently, ARS organizes concerts through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, performing for young audiences and continuing to educate, entertain, and inspire the youth of Southern Arizona. Gala honorees Ackerley and Molina embody this ongoing commitment across generations. Phillips himself is an alum of the Tucson Boys Chorus and his son is a member of their touring group.

With its mix of song and community, hors d’oeuvres and raffle prizes, the 40th Anniversary Gala promises to be an exciting must-attend event for choral music aficionados, arts lovers, and ARS supporters. It’s rare for ARS to hold a fundraiser, and the proceeds will fund ARS music and education programs in the years ahead. The festivities are sure to please those in attendance; as for the singers, they couldn’t be happier. As Jahn explains, “We are reveling in this wonderful music.” Phillips sums it up simply: “It’s a celebration of who we are and the music that we’ve brought to this community.”


Sunday, April 28, 2024
3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Catalina Foothills High School Auditorium
4300 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson
Dr. Julian Ackerley, Director, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus
Dr. Marcela Molina, Director, Tucson Girls Chorus 

Purchase tickets.
Preferred Seating: $100 (includes three raffle tickets)
General Seating: $75 (includes one raffle ticket)
Raffle Tickets: $10/each for donated goods and experiences.
Raffle tickets for donated goods and experiences will be provided upon check-in. Must be present to win. Gala and raffle tickets are not tax-deductible.