Women In Winter | HOLIDAY 2022 | CONDUCTOR’S CORNER

In the fall of 2020, during the height of awareness for underrepresented communities, the Arizona Repertory Singers posted a statement on our website that vowed to make a change to become more inclusive. Each semester, I made it a priority to program music by people of color. This expanded our mission of togetherness and sought to break down divisions within the choral music community.

At the end of our spring 2022 season, I asked members of the choir if they had any specific concert themes in mind for the following year. Afterward, one of our sopranos came up to me and remarked, “I think it would be wonderful if we did a concert featuring music from women composers.” This gave me pause—has this ensemble done something like this before? That same day, I looked through our library and saw a grand total of four holiday pieces by women composers; the rest by men. This is a concert that needed to happen.

I recognize that many ensembles have featured women composers on their programs before, but never have I seen them done with holiday repertoire. I was thrilled by this new challenge and an opportunity to fill our library with new beautiful music!

ARS is honored to offer a meaningful seasonal message with beautiful music from a diverse collection of women composers. This program ranges from the hearty strength of Elaine Hagenberg’s “Sussex Carol” to the quiet sensitivity of Sarah Quartel’s “This endris night” to Rosephanye Powell’s joyous spirituals. It is always my goal to not only think of what our audiences will enjoy, but also our singers; and the proof is in the pudding. After a month of rehearsals, one of our altos came up to me and said, “normally when we rehearse music for each semester, there’s one or two pieces that I do not care for. I cannot think of a single piece we are singing this year that I do not enjoy!”
And we hope you will do just that. Please enjoy our concert of music by women composers, Women in Winter!

WOMEN COMPOSERS TAKE CENTER STAGE IN ARS HOLIDAY CONCERTS

Contact: Julie Ray, Communications Consultant
julie@julieraycreative.com
(520) 891-8098
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: October 21, 2022
 
Tucson, AZ, October, 2022 — The Arizona Repertory Singers (ARS) present Women in Winter, a holiday program of familiar standards, new compositions, and fresh arrangements by women. “This is a first for us,” ARS music director Ryan Phillips explains. “We were inspired by a suggestion from one of our singers to focus on female composers and arrangers, a rare endeavor within the realm of holiday choral music which, like many subgenres, has been dominated over the centuries by men. We’re excited to expand our music library, diversify our repertoire, and perform these engaging works for our Tucson community.”

Encompassing both the secular and the sacred, the program is bookended by works from Sarah Quartel, a Canadian composer, educator and conductor. The concert commences with “This Endris Night,” a lilting piece that reimagines a 15th-century text for modern audiences and culminates with “Snow Angel.”

A departure from the shorter pieces in the program, “Snow Angel” allows both the singers and audience members to experience a range of moods and rhythms over its 18-minute span. Its five movements evoke the beauty of the season through children’s eyes, guided by a celestial chorus as they journey through darkness to light. This captivating work features piano, cello, and djembe.

Fourth-generation choral composer Abbie Betinis follows in her forbears’ footsteps, composing a holiday carol each year, shared on Minnesota Public Radio. Women in Winter boasts two: “Carol of the Stranger,” a call of welcome and a wish for peace, with lyrics by poet and librettist Michael Dennis Browne; and the lively “Hail, Christmas Day!” based on a medieval-style poem by Betinis’ grandfather, John H. Burt, with alternating meter and round-singing.

Other rousing selections come from Rosaphanye Powell, a prolific composer, educator, and scholar of Black spirituals. In that tradition, ARS offers “Have You Seen the Baby Jesus?” and Glory Hallelujah to Duh Newbo’n King.” The first is a new song with a foot-tapping tempo inspired by jazz and gospel rhythms, and the second, her classic arrangement recast for tenors and basses by her husband, William C. Powell.

Canadian Kim Baryluk’s “Solstice Carol,” a round of warm, modal harmonies for altos and sopranos, conjures the timeless gatherings that mark the shift in seasons. Another celebration of community, “Hiney Mah Tov,” a Hebrew folk favorite both in concerts and at Shabbat feasts throughout the world, proclaims the pleasures of coming together in its simple message from Psalm 133: “behold how good.” This version is arranged by Iris Levine.

Collective joy is also at the heart of the well-known “Gaudete” — Latin for “rejoice” — in a new, upbeat arrangement from Annabel Rooney. In addition, the jubilant “Sussex Carol,” arranged by Elaine Hagenberg and featuring a string quartet, testifies to the enduring popularity of this traditional English piece. Capturing a more reflective mood, “There Is No Rose,” by Seattle-based writer, critic, and teacher Melinda Bargreen, transports with its haunting cadence and the ebb and swell of voices.

“We’re delighted to present such a range of holiday music this season in a program that focuses on women composers working today, primarily in North America,” remarks Phillips. “The quieter pieces invite introspection while the exuberant ones gather us in celebration as we end the year and welcome the next together.”

CONCERT SCHEDULE
Friday, December 97:30 pm*St. Mark Catholic Church, 2727 W. Tangerine Road, Oro Valley
Sunday, December 113:00 pm*Desert Skies United Methodist Church, 3255 N. Houghton Road, Tucson
Sunday, December 183:00 pmChrist Church United Methodist, 666 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson

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

Covid Policy: All ARS Singers are vaccinated and have had a booster shot. We encourage patrons attending our concerts to wear a mask. This policy will be reviewed closer to December concerts and updated, if necessary.

*Indicates new venues for ARS concerts. Thank you to St. Mark Catholic Church and Desert Skies United Methodist Church for sharing their spaces for our Winter 2022 concerts.

Celebrating their 39th season, the Arizona Repertory Singers is an ensemble of nearly 50 singers from greater Tucson. Since 1984, the choir has developed an extensive repertory, presenting high-quality performances of both standard repertoire and new music. Our community of singers, selected through a rigorous audition process, represents a variety of professions and life pursuits, such as business, education, engineering, information technology, law, medicine, social service, science, and the arts. For more details, see arsingers.org.

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2022-23 Season

Our 39th season promises engaging repertoire for both our Winter and Spring performances. Our December concerts, Women in Winter, will be a first for ARS—a performance built entirely of repertoire by women composers. The variety of styles and perspectives related to the season, including Snow Angel by Sarah Quartel, an 18-minute, five-movement work featuring piano, cello, and djembe accompaniment, will provide an enriching holiday musical experience.


We are excited to perform in two new venues, each with personal connections to ARS. The first is St. Mark Catholic Church in Oro Valley—a gorgeous building with wonderful acoustics that can host our growing audience. We know our sound will be elevated in this stunning space that is the home church to one of our singers. The second venue is Desert Skies United Methodist Church where Ryan Phillips, ARS’ Music Director, serves as Music Director and where two of our singers attend. We look forward to bringing the ARS experience to brand new audiences in this large sanctuary.


Our Spring repertoire is inspired by the joys and wonders of children and holds a warm place in our hearts—in March, our Music Director and his wife welcomed twins into their family. This performance will feature foreign language pieces, including Bo na Leathadhairce by Desmond Earley, which uses a tune learned by Irish children in school, Hela Rotan, an arrangement of an Indonesian folk song by Ken Stevens about the game of tug-of-war, and Kidsong by Stephen Caldwell, which brings together multiple children’s songs into one cohesive piece.