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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 25, 2018

5/8/2018 1:29:00 PM
It's 'singtime' in Sisters
By Craig Eisenbeis

Springtime in Sisters? Well, yes; but, according to the Sisters High Desert Chorale, it's also "Singtime in Sisters!" That's what the chorale hit upon for the title of their annual free, spring concerts for the community, which will be conducted next week on May 18 and 20.

"The music for this year's spring concert is as whimsical and eclectic as a Central Oregon springtime," said the group's director, Connie Gunterman. "Musically we offer a little bit of everything and there are sure to be favorites for everyone. We continue to challenge ourselves and build on each performance. We were thrilled by the standing-room-only audience for the winter concerts and are bringing that same enthusiasm for the spring."

Gunterman is in her second year as director of the Sisters community choir, which is in its 26th season. "I am so honored and privileged to be a part of this group," she said. "The chorale has been working since March to create a wonderful choral experience that will please the Sisters community. You have no idea how happy we all are when the people of Sisters show up and cheer us on."

One of the selections for this concert is "Ol' Man River" from the 1927 musical "Showboat," with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. Showboat was a ground-breaking production in that it was the first time a musical was used in a dramatic presentation. Prior to that time, musicals tended to be light and frivolous or follies-type revues.

The novel "Showboat," which tackled serious social issues, racism in particular, was written in 1926 by Edna Ferber. When Kern approached Ferber about turning her novel into a musical, Ferber was appalled, given her understanding of the nature of musicals up to that point in time. However, Kern was able to convince her of the idea, and a new genre of musical productions was born. Since 1927, Showboat has been revived on stage numerous times and produced on film in 1929, 1936, and - most notably - 1951.

Another sure-to-please selection is the Negro spiritual, "Down by the Riverside," which dates to the antebellum South, although it was not published until 1918. With pacifist lyrics that include "I'm goin' to lay down my sword and shield," and the refrain, "I ain't gonna study war no more," the song was a popular anti-war protest song during the Vietnam War.

The piece's central theme is one of spiritual hope, including baptism, reaching the promised land, and ascending to heaven. As with many such spirituals, a hidden or implied message is that of escaping - or at least transcending - slavery. Midway through the song, this particular arrangement, by English composer John Rutter, splits the choir with a rousing "glory hallelujah" countermelody. Curiously, much of Rutter's widely celebrated work involves religious music; and, although describing himself as "spiritual," he professes not to be especially religious, himself.

Another highlight will be Robert Frost's iconic poem, "The Road Not Taken," set to music by Randall Thompson. Other musical highlights for the spring concert include "It's a Most Unusual Day," "Ease on Down the Road," "Swinging on a Star," "Georgia on My Mind," and several patriotic selections, concluding with "The Star Spangled Banner."

The choir is made up of talented personnel of all ages and all walks of life, who come together to present quality choral music to the people of Sisters and Central Oregon. The chorale presents free public concerts twice a year; the second pair of concerts takes place during the holiday season prior to Christmas.

The chorale's two spring concerts will be held next week on Friday, May 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 2:30 p.m. at Sisters Community Church, at 1300 W. McKenzie Hwy., on the west side of town. The chorale's accompanist is Donna Moyer. Recorder and ukulele music will serve as opening acts for the two-part concert, with cookies served during the intermission.

New chorale members for future concerts are always welcome. In keeping with the community nature of the group, auditions and solos are not required. Rehearsals for the annual holiday season concerts will begin in the fall. Rehearsals are held at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration on Monday evenings. For further information, visit or call Connie Gunterman at 541-588-0362.

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