ARS HOLIDAY CONCERTS: CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF CHORAL MUSIC AND COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Contact: Julie Ray, Communications Consultant
(520) 891-8098, julie@julieraycreative.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

CONCERT SCHEDULE

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 arsingers.org. 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 arsingers.org.

GROWING UP: ARS HONORS THE WORLD OF CHILDREN WITH “KIDSONG”

Contact: Julie Ray, Communications Consultant
julie@julieraycreative.com
(520) 891-8098
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Tucson, AZ, March, 2022 — This spring, the Arizona Repertory Singers present KidSong, a celebration of children’s songs, ballads, games, and lullabies. With a repertoire of over a dozen pieces in six languages, the program encompasses not only the playfulness and enchantment of childhood, but also its complexities.

ARS music director Ryan Phillips decided on the theme soon after he his wife welcomed twins, on the heels of an ARS rehearsal. “These songs hold a warm place in my heart,” explains Phillips, “and flow organically from the joys and wonders we’ve experienced watching them grow this past year.” In their honor, he prepared his own arrangement of “All Through the Night,” a centuries-old cradlesong he has sung countless times for his little ones as his mother did for him.

These deep connections we feel to our early years — from generation to generation and across cultures — is a through line for the entire concert, and many songs will stir wistful memories, longing, or even sorrow. The plaintive “Only in Sleep,” by Ēriks Ešenvalds, proposes that our childhood friendships live on in dreams (something of a consolation) while Eric Whitacre’s beseeching “Child of Wonder” invokes solace after devastating loss. Watching over all is “Sudraba Meness (the Silver Moon),” its reassuring presence captured in a stirring ode by composer Laura Jēkabsone and sung by ARS in the original Latvian.

The program includes many feisty and fun pieces as well, kicking off with “Hela Rotan,” a rousing tug-of-war tune from the island of Maluku, arranged by Ken Steven and sung with percussive panache in Indonesian; its lyrics extol the benefits of both healthy competition and necessary cooperation. “KidSong,” an energizing medley from Stephen Caldwell (the tempo marking is simply “as fast as possible”), revives treasured children’s classics, accompanied by claps and stomps, and may well prompt listeners to sing along.

Other traditional selections include the frolicking “Bó na Leathadharice,” arranged by Desmond Earley and sung in Irish with bodhrán accompaniment, and “We Rise Again,” an uplifting coalminer’s ballad of children carrying their forebears’ legacies forward, from darkness to light; it’s composed by Leon Dubinsky, arranged by Stephen Smith, and accompanied by piano.

In a similar vein, “Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor and featuring tenors and basses, calls for hope and peace. The altos and sopranos take center stage for “On Children,” composed by Sweet Honey in the Rock’s Ysaye Barnwell with lyrics by Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran. Its message to parents and elders urges them to champion the independence and individuality of children.

Finally, ARS will reprise last year’s ever-popular “I Love You/What a Wonderful World,” the well-known lyrics harkening to the beauty around us, a gift to our children. Like the rest of the program, the piece invites audience members to travel down “memory lane” or encounter a familiar feeling in a new song. KidSong sets the charms and challenges of childhood to music and captures our shared experience. This universality is central to the endeavor. As Phillips says, “There’s something for everyone.”

CONCERT SCHEDULE
Sunday, April 16 3:00 pm Desert Skies United Methodist Church, 3255 N. Houghton Road, Tucson
Friday, April 21 7:30 pm St. Mark Catholic Church, 2727 W. Tangerine Road, Oro Valley
Sunday, April 23 3:00 pm Christ Church United Methodist, 666 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson

Tickets are $18 in advance at https://arsingers.org/buy-tickets/ and $20 at the door. Students are admitted free with ID.

Covid Policy: As a performing arts organization, our audiences come first. All ARS Singers are vaccinated and have had a booster shot. We recommend that patrons attending our concerts wear a mask.

Celebrating their 39th 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 arsingers.org.

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.

Ars’ Spring Concerts stir emotions and action to preserve the planet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[TUCSON, AZ]—As the Sonoran desert comes to life with spring flowers, the Arizona Repertory Singers are singing for the planet’s life.

Its Spring concert, “The Beauty of the Earth,” features a repertoire imploring audiences to take action to preserve the planet and slow climate change.

“We have come to a pivotal time in our existence,” said ARS music director Ryan Phillips. “In the latest UN Climate Change report, scientists sent a dire warning. They stressed that we have a narrowing window for action.”

“Art can awaken us,” Phillips said. “Music has a way of touching our emotions and it can stir us to work for change.”

“This program is the Arizona Repertory Singers’ small contribution to the fight against climate change. We’ve picked music that inspires gratitude, reminds us of the beauty of the earth, and, we hope, motivates our audiences to take action to preserve our planet for our future generations,” Phillips said.

The 45-member choral ensemble will open the concert with the hearty and powerful “Emerald Stream,” by Seth Houston. Houston wrote the song when he was just 17 and on a canoe trip with his father; the piece announces God’s command that we care for the earth. The rhythm and flow of the song matches that of someone briskly paddling a canoe.

From there the ensemble will move into Frank Ticheli’s hauntingly beautiful “Earth Song,” an unfortunately timely reminder that war also ravages our planet.

The ensemble will perform several well-loved songs including two pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams, “Linden Lea” and “Rest,” the soaring “For the Beauty of the Earth” by John Rutter, and “Sing of Spring” by George and Ira Gershwin.

The concert also includes a recent composition, “Great Flowing River,” composed during the 2020 pandemic. Charles Anthony Silvestri wrote the lyrics after the sudden death of a loved one. James Eakin composed the music with flowing vocal lines and a stirring harmony to capture the joy and love found in our memories of loved ones.

Nature has its own musical presence in this program. Sounds of a woodpecker will accompany the ensemble on “Metsa Telegramm,” by Uno Naissoo. In “Bumble Bee,” composed by Anders Edenroth, voices will hum and buzz. The ensemble will sing of canaries, eels and kangaroos in Eric Whitacre’s whimsical “Animal Crackers.”

Some of the other pieces will be accompanied by piano, violin and cello.

The concert will also include a chance for audiences to hear a live performance of one of the ensemble’s most loved songs from its 2020 pandemic “virtual” performances.

“But we are keeping that one a surprise,” Phillips said.

Concert schedule

Friday, April 22
7:30 pm
*St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 1431 Magee Road

Sunday, April 24
3:00 pm
Christ Church United Methodist, 655 N. Craycroft Road

Friday, April 29
7:30 pm
*Tanque Verde Lutheran, 8625 E Tanque Verde Road

Tickets will go on sale at arsingers.org on March 18. Prices are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Students are admitted free with ID.

All Arizona Repertory Singers singers and staff are vaccinated and boosted. To protect our audiences, all patrons over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination and wear masks to attend our performances.

*Indicates new venues for ARS concerts. Thank you to St. Mark’s Methodist and Tanque Verde Lutheran churches for sharing their spaces for our Spring 2022 concerts.

The Arizona Repertory Singers is an auditioned ensemble of 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 see, arsingers.org

                       ###

In-person ARS holiday concerts to feature world music

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: October 18, 2021

[TUCSON, AZ]—The Arizona Repertory Singers will once again offer live choral concerts this December.

“It’s soul stirring for us to sing together in person again,” said ARS music director Ryan Phillips. “That spirit is going to shine through our holiday concert.”

The title, “Sim Shalom, Grant Peace,” takes its name from a Hebrew prayer, set to music com-posed by Jennaya Robison. Hebrew will be one of seven different languages sung during the con-cert.

“We are singing in Hebrew, Norwegian, Spanish, Irish, Latin, English, and will end with a really fun and uplifting song from South Africa,” Phillips said.

“Even if you don’t understand all the languages, music is our common language. These songs embody a feeling of serenity and celebration that is perfect for this time of year.”

The 40-member ensemble will be accompanied by Woan Ching Lim on piano along with a harpist, string players, and percussionists.

Audiences will hear early contemplative music of the Renaissance to 20th century composers such as Benjamin Britten. Selections will include, “Eit barn er født i Bethlehem” by Norwegian composer Ørjan Matre, “Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil” by Irish Composer David Mooney, and two renditions back to back of “Quem vidistis, pastores,” one arranged in the 16th century and the other in the 20th century by French composer, Francis Poulenc.

“It will be the same text, but different compositional styles 400 years apart,” Phillips said.

The Arizona Repertory Singers offered its 2020 winter concert and 2021 spring concert virtually. Singing remotely gave the ensemble some gifts, Phillips said. They gained new members and learned new ways to practice.

“We have ten new members singing with us this season. Some joined the virtual choir and stuck around in person. Others saw the virtual performances and wanted to join,” Phillips said.

This fall, Phillips made digital practice tracks for some of the more difficult music, so members could listen and practice at home.

“That’s something that we all learned to do and use when we were singing virtually,” Phillips said.

To safely practice together this fall, choral members are rehearsing outside in a member’s backyard.

“At the first in-person rehearsal in September it was a big sigh of relief,” Phillips said. “It was wonderful, even rehearsing in the dark with swarms of bugs.”

“Everyone has neck lights that wrap around your neck and illuminate the music. Everyone brings their chairs and bug spray, it’s like choir camping. We set up an electric keyboard and watch the sun setting as we sing. It’s so good to be back and hear people in person, not singing over a vid-eo. I love it. I’m so glad we are back.”

Dates and Venues for “Sim Shalom, Grant Peace,”

Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams Street, Tucson AZ 85719
December 10, 7:30 p.m.

Christ the King Episcopal Church, 2800 W. Ina Road, Tucson AZ 85741
December 12, 7:30 p.m.

St. Albans Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Old Sabino Canyon Road, Tucson AZ 85750
December 17, 7:30 p.m.

Christ Church United Methodist, 655 N. Craycroft Road, Tucson AZ 85711
December 19, 3:00 p.m.


Tickets are $18 online at arsingers.org or $20 at the door. Group tickets are $15 for 10 or more attendees. Students are free.
Arizona Repertory Singers public health plans for the December 2021 concerts include: All ARS singers and staff are vaccinated. Audience members must be vaccinated and wear masks. Ticket sales will be limited to half the seating capacity for each venue and seating will be socially dis-tanced.
The Arizona Repertory Singers is an auditioned ensemble of 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, educa-tion, engineering, information technology, law, medicine, social service, science, and the arts.