All The Beauty | April 2024

by Ryan Phillips, M.M.
Music Director

What an exciting 40th anniversary season it has been for the Arizona Repertory Singers! This past fall, we welcomed our largest audiences since I began directing the ensemble, and we have loved rehearsing and performing music that is “uniquely ARS.” As you know, this season, we selected nearly all of our repertoire from our vast library in order to showcase music our singers and audiences have been delighted with during our past four decades of song.

Over the years, a few of these selections have reoccurred in ARS performances, such as Lauridsen’s Sure On This Shining Night and Stroope’s How Can I Keep From Singing? Some are newer to the choir but played a key role in our legacy, such as Elberdin’s Cantate Domino and Gibbs’ Great Day, both of which were featured as virtual choirs during our 2020-2021 season. The repertoire you will hear in this performance means a great deal to our singers, and we hope they impact you as well.

With this anniversary season, we celebrate our choral legacy and the music we have brought to the Tucson community. In addition, we are excited to share the legacy of choral music across the Tucson area, recognizing the work of other choir directors that introduces young singers to the joy of music. As part of our gala celebration. we honor Julian Ackerley and Marcela Molina, two devoted music educators who have provided musical training and encouragement to young people in our community through their leadership in the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, and the Tucson Girls Chorus. As a member of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, I learned the value of learning and understanding music at an early age. The impact of these two educators reaches people around the world, as numerous graduates of their choirs have gone on to direct their own choirs and bring music to those communities. The choral legacy of Julian Ackerley and Marcela Molina is invaluable.

We also look to the future of ARS as our choral legacy continues. In the fall of 2022, we sang There is No Rose, a breathtaking piece by Seattle composer, Melinda Bargreen. When we began discussing a commission for our anniversary, she immediately came to mind. We were thrilled that she was able to compose For All the Beauty set to a beautiful text she had just written which would perfectly complement our occasion; it seemed as though our match was meant to be! We are excited to premier this piece for you and welcome the composer to our performance where her work will be brought to life.

I want to thank each and every one of you for supporting our ensemble and choral music in Tucson. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to bring our 40th anniversary season to life in such a meaningful and impactful way. We hope you enjoy the food and drink, the raffle, and most importantly, the music!

Honorees | Spring Gala 2024

Dr. Marcela Molina

Dr. Molina has been leading the Tucson Girls Chorus since 2006, first serving as Artistic Director and taking the helm as Executive Director in 2011. Under Dr. Molina’s guidance, the Tucson Girls Chorus has grown significantly in programming and community engagement. With her leadership, the TGC has transformed into a vibrant and collaborative organization that creates access to inclusive programming for youth, and provides resources to music educators and support to their classroom all year-round. In addition to her work with the TGC, Dr. Molina serves as Director of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Dr. Marcela Molina holds degrees from Westminster Choir College and the University of Arizona. She has contributed articles to Antiphon, and the books Teaching through Performance in Choir, Volume 2 and Choral Reflections: Insights from American Choral Conductor-Teachers. She was named 2019 Choral Director of the Year by Arizona American Choral Directors Association (AzACDA), and she often serves as a clinician and guest conductor for choral festivals around the country. Dr. Molina has served on the board of the AzACDA as well as standing committees for ACDA Western Division. She currently serves on the board of Chorus America.

Dr. Julian Ackerley

Director of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus since 1980, Julian Ackerley has achieved acclaim as an accomplished conductor and administrator. He has taken the choristers on performance tours spanning five continents and over 30 countries. Under his direction, the Chorus has made numerous recordings and has collaborated with national symphony orchestras. The state’s highest arts commendation, The Governor’s Arts Award, was presented to the Chorus

Dr. Ackerley is an experienced teacher, having taught music at all levels from elementary to university students. He received his doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Arizona with emphasis in music education, vocal performance and choral conducting. He is a frequent guest clinician.

Dr. Ackerley served as the National Boychoir Chair for the American Choral Directors Association and is a specialist in working with boys emerging voices. His Chapter “Oh Brother! Success with Boy Singers” is published in Voices in Harmony, Youth Choir Leadership, Education, and Artistry. He was selected Choral Director of the Year by the Arizona ACDA Chapter.

In partnership with his wife Jane, Dr. Ackerley’s dedication to artistic quality and the well-being of his choristers has been key in building the international reputation of the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus.


Contact: Julie Ray, Communications Consultant
(520) 891-8098,


Tucson, AZ, October, 2023 — This holiday season, the Arizona Repertory Singers (ARS) present What Sweeter Music: 40 Years with ARS, a journey through four decades of contemporary compositions and familiar classics, ARS highlights and audience favorites. 

In preparation for their anniversary year, a committee of singers and board members culled the brightest and best (as one selection is indeed entitled) from the choral group’s vast library. From that still-extensive list, ARS music director Ryan Phillips curated a holiday program of 18 selections that captures the cheer and reflection of the season as well as the exhilaration of human voices raised together in song. “We’ve chosen music that most describes ARS,” explains Phillips, “music that is most important to the ensemble.”

The program derives its name from a carol by renowned English composer and conductor John Rutter; “What Sweeter Music” is an invitation to enjoy its luscious harmonies as a delightful and heart-warming gift. Also on the set list is Rutter’s delicate and flowing “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind,” its title and text drawn from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Both songs are accompanied by piano.

Another highlight is the serene “O Magnum Mysterium (O Great Mystery)” by prominent and prolific composer Morten Lauridsen; he describes his ode to the humble animals of the nativity as “a quiet song of profound inner joy.” Other contemplative pieces include an expansive hymn, alternating between crescendo and quiet, “Spaséñiye, sodélal (Salvation is created)” by Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov and a soothing lullaby with soaring soprano lines, “There Is Faint Music,” composed by Dan Forrest with lyrics by Nancy Buckley.

The program’s more rousing fare ranges from contemporary to classical: “Brightest and Best,” a stirring hymn invoking light in the darkness, arranged by composer, singer, and conductor Shawn Kirchner with text by Reginald Heber; an energetic Catalonian carol, “Fum, Fum, Fum”; and the rambunctious “Masters in This Hall,” both arranged by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. Moving through music history, there is the 16th-century “Coventry Carol,” originally performed as part of the medieval Mystery Plays and arranged by Martin Shaw; the bright, brisk “Hodie Christus natus est (Today Christ Is Born)” by 16th/17th-century Dutch composer and organist J.P. Sweelinck; and from the Romantic era, “Weihnachten,” a call to rejoice by Felix Mendelssohn.

This spirit of joyfulness extends to the traditional carol, “In dulci jubilo (In Sweet Rejoicing),” a rhythmic and macaronic (using two languages, in this case, English and Latin) piece, arranged by Minneapolis-based composer, conductor, and educator Matthew Culleton. Other carols in the program are the layered and lush “My Lord Has Come” by English composer and pianist Will Todd and Steven Landau’s “Hark! In 7/8,” an exciting and percussive arrangement of the timeless “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Traveling across cultures in song, ARS also performs “Abreme la Puerta,” a Puerto Rican welcome to carolers, arranged by Dr. Cristian Grases, sung in Spanish, and accompanied by guitar as well as “Love Came Down at Christmas” by Black American conductor and music professor Dr. Robert A. Harris with text from an 1885 Cristina Rossetti poem. Finally, the program includes two Hebrew pieces: the beseeching “Erev Shel Shoshanim (Evening of Roses),” a popular love song, composed by Yosef Hader with words by Moshe Dor and a popular up-tempo Chanukah song, “S’vivon B’sheva,” arranged by Robert Lopez-Hanshaw, music director at Temple Emanu-el in Tucson and former ARS singer. 

This season’s holiday concerts, like those of the past 40 years, both honor and reinforce community, drawing everyone together through the power of music. “Our singers simply love to sing,” says Phillips, “and share their love of singing with Tucson and the surrounding communities.” 

Join ARS for these landmark holiday concerts and mark your calendars now for the ARS spring gala and concert on April 28, 2024, the culmination of their yearlong anniversary celebration and an experience that promises to be inspired and inspiring. The gala will honor Dr. Julian Ackerley and Dr. Marcela Molina, directors of the Tucson Boys Chorus and Tucson Girls Chorus respectively, for their work in nurturing thousands of young singers and instilling a love of music in our community’s youth


Saturday, December 9
3:00 pm
Desert Skies United Methodist Church, 3255 N. Houghton Road, Tucson  

Sunday, December 10
3:00 pm
Christ Church United Methodist, 666 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson

Sunday, December 17
4:00 pm
St. Mark Catholic Church, 2727 W. Tangerine Road, Oro Valley

Tickets are available at Prices are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Students are admitted free with ID. 

Celebrating their 40th season, the Arizona Repertory Singers is an auditioned ensemble of nearly 50 singers from greater Tucson. Since 1984 this choir has developed an extensive repertory and prides itself on presenting high quality performances of the standard repertoire and new music. Our community of singers, selected through a rigorous audition process, represent a variety of work life careers in business, education, engineering, information technology, law, medicine, social service, science, and the arts. For more details, see

What Sweeter Music | December 2023

Ryan Phillips, M.M.

The 40th anniversary of the Arizona Repertory Singers is upon us. I continue to be proud of leading such joyous and imaginative singers. This 2023-24 season has brought a rejuvenated energy into our rehearsals, one that has facilitated faster learning and deeper musical understanding within each singer.

The repertoire for this Winter concert was specifically chosen as pieces that hold the most value for ARS and our audiences. Forty years of collected repertoire is an accomplishment in itself, and it is our goal to show you the best! Some of our current singers have rehearsed many of these pieces through the years, and some have encountered this music for the very first time. In our Winter concert, you will hear the luscious harmonies of Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, the joyous polyphony in Sweelinck’s Hodie Christus Natus Est, and be ‘invited to a party’ in Abreme la Puerta by Cristian Grases. Every piece in the program demonstrates who we are as an ensemble and holds a special place in our hearts. All of our repertoire this year is about “Celebrating our Choral Legacy,” and we are honored to share the celebration with you during our concert.

Much has gone into the preparation of our holiday performances during this special anniversary season, and I would like to take a moment to offer my sincere gratitude for everyone on our board, various committees, and our singers for their tireless work and energy. Since we began preparations for the 2023-24 season, everyone involved has shown what ARS truly means to them, and I am humbled by their meaningful work. I hope you enjoy our performance and that the Arizona Repertory Singers inspires you as you celebrate this holiday season.

Save the Date!

Our 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration is scheduled for

Sunday, April 28, 2024 at 3pm

at Catalina Foothills High School.

This spring, we break tradition with only one performance at the end of April: a gala concert event. 
We will honor Julian Ackerley, Director, Tucson Boy’s Chorus and Marcela Molina, Director, Tucson Girl’s Chorus.
This anniversary gala will feature a newly commissioned piece by a prominent composer, a raffle, and a reception with hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and mocktails.
More information coming in January!