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!

Conductor’s Corner | Spring 2022 | The Beauty of the earth

Throughout my adult years, I have always tried to do better in many aspects of my life, whether that is being a better musician, an encouraging teacher, a loving husband, or a more involved father. In all of these cases, being present and showing love, kindness, and gratitude is what betters ourselves. Because it emboldens love and kindness, gratitude is always my number one takeaway. Let me ask you: How do you show gratitude toward others? Your community and country? How about your planet?

Our planet has housed life for billions of years, yet the human race has managed to alter the environment so drastically through energy and manufacturing emissions, that it might not be suitable for life within the next few lifetimes. How can this have happened? We show gratitude for so many things in our lives, but do we show it for our planet? We have a duty to do all that we can to preserve our planet; buy used, drive electric, run solar power, conserve resources, etc.

This program is the Arizona Repertory Singers’ small contribution to raise awareness of our responsibilities related to climate change. Each piece speaks directly to the predicament in which we have found ourselves, the animals that we have affected, or the home for which we must rededicate ourselves and our service. Through this music, we hope you find the motivation, and make the effort to save your home, our home, and the home of our future generations.

–Ryan Phillips
Music Director and Conductor

Conductor’s Corner | Holiday 2021

Sim Shalom-Grant Peace
Holiday Music from Around the World

Can we all give one big sigh of relief together? 1, 2, 3…sigh. Never before would I have thought that I shouldn’t take performing for live audiences for granted. We made some wonderful virtual music during the height of the pandemic, but that performance itch was never quite scratched. What a joy it is to see you all today, about to enjoy the rested and rejuvenated Arizona Repertory Singers!

While at home in my own work and familial bubble, I thought about how important travel is to my life and mental health. Each summer I try to travel abroad, whether it be to the music-laden pubs of Ireland, the historical structures of Machu Picchu, or the biologically brilliant Galapagos Islands. Each new place I visit brings an air of exploration andwonder to my life. I know you feel the same way. Experiencing the world around us is somethingthat truly makes life worth living.

In lieu of hopping on a plane for a getaway in a country that may or may not be locked down, we are here to bring the world to you. During this performance, you’ll experience several different languages and travel to even more areas of the world. Each piece has been chosen to offer a contrast from every other that comes before it.

It is our hope to allow you to experience music from around the world in one sitting. Not only forthe joy of experiencing it, but also to open your minds to various cultures and musical styles. We are one choir, in one state, in one country. The world is a vast place overflowing with exploration and wonder. Let’s experience it together!

–Ryan Phillips
Music Director and Conductor

Conductor’s Corner – I Can See the Light

When difficult days lie in front of us, how are we to move forward? What drives us on to see the brighter days ahead? Our world is afflicted with violence, hate, racism, disease, environmental harms, and so much more. After all this, how do we refrain from giving up hope? Every one of us has lived through our worst fears and made it through to see a new future – one that we built for ourselves.

“I Can See the Light” does not give answers, but encourages us all to move forward in the wake of tragedy. The program is divided into four sections: Tragedy, Joy, Love, and Healing. When we suffer from insurmountable pain, our body tries to rationalize the events and understand their meaning.

Eliza Gilkyson’s “Requiem” was written in the wake of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami – the deadliest tsunami ever recorded. Her plea for meaning, understanding and grace resonate with our experience of the current COVID pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives from our midst. Craig Hella Johnson arranged Gilkyson’s solo song into a simple, yet immeasurably powerful piece which opens our performance.

Following tragedy, we search for solace and look to the future for hope. Some turn to faith, others to nature, and some to music. “Cantate Domino,” “Ballade to the Moon,” and “When Music Sounds” speak to the joys of life still left to experience. Of course, there is no greater joy than love. The following three pieces offer a journey that experiences true love, marriage, and living out our final days with loved ones.

Finally, we turn to healing, the last step in moving past tragedy. Our performance culminates in the singing of a choral arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” This piece accepts the past and moves forward to find a brand-new day dawning. After we find joy and love, we heal and say, “I Can See the Light.”

–Ryan Phillips