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

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.