Newcomers welcome to join 20th season; first rehearsal set for Sept. 8
By Jim Flint for Ashland.news
After a long pandemic hiatus, the Rogue Valley Peace Choir will launch its 20th anniversary season with a rehearsal on Thursday, Sept. 8, at First United Methodist Church of Ashland, 175 N. Main St.
Registration for the non-audition choral group will begin at 6 p.m. with rehearsal running from 6:30 to 8:30. All interested singers are welcome.
A pre-season party and potluck is set for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, at Cotton Memorial Area in Lithia Park, across Granite Street from Lantern Hill Drive. Singers wanting to know more about the group can connect with choir members, join in singing a few tunes, and generally eat, drink and be merry.
Season membership forms will be available. Singers can meet new director Jerry Campbell and pay their annual dues.
“We have a team of people who carefully select our music,” Campbell said, “to ensure that it is musically appealing while addressing the need for peace, justice, and environmental stewardship.”
The Peace Choir returned in 2022 with an abbreviated spring season, and members look forward to the first full season since the pandemic.
Diane Garcia has been singing with the Peace Choir since day one. In fact, she started the choir when she returned to the Rogue Valley after several years living in Eugene and singing with the Eugene Peace Choir.
The pandemic was worrisome and disconnecting for Garcia.
“I missed performing and the camaraderie among the members,” she said. “I worried how COVID would affect the choir in the long run.”
But she looks forward to the 20th season.
“We have a beautiful repertoire for the coming year,” she said. “Half the songs are golden oldies, favorites from years past, and half are new. I’m excited to sing again and to reunite with fellow singers.”
Avram Chetron, a 15-year Peace Choir veteran, shares Garcia’s enthusiasm for the new season, and urges newcomers to join.
“Just do it!” he says to those considering membership in the choir. It’s a way to support the choir’s mission, “getting our message to the public in an entertaining and enjoyable way,” he said.
Robert Q. Serrett has sung with the choir for 10 years. Joining had a nostalgic connection for him.
“I wanted to sing, like I once did with my father in the bass section of the church choir,” he said. “The pandemic shutdown was ghastly. I missed blending our voices together. I could sing on walks with Gaia, the whippet, yet it wasn’t the same.”
What gives him the most satisfaction? “Hitting the right notes most of the time.” The most memorable moment? “Singing the (Grammy-nominated song) ‘One Voice’ a cappella.”
Bob Altaras is another long-time member of the Peace Choir, a veteran of 19 years. He joined out of a love of singing and with a desire to do something to move the community towards peace.
He looks forward to rebuilding the choir to its pre-COVID size of 75-100 members.
“Going a couple years without singing with your friends was tough,” Altaras said. “When we did start back up earlier this year, we social-distanced and wore huge ‘singing masks.’ The masks muffled our voices a bit. Not having someone next to you, you missed hearing the harmonies.”
Joyce Ward has sung with the choir for 12 years.
“I love to sing,” she said, “and I wanted to put some energy toward the goals of the choir.”
She enjoys learning new music and performing well together, but some of her most memorable moments have been during joint choir concerts.
“We used to get together once a year with choirs from Portland, Eugene and Willits, California,” she said. “Each choir would perform a few songs and then we would all sing together, creating a very big sound. So much fun!”
Musical Director Campbell joined the group in December 2021 in anticipation of preparing in January for a brief spring 2022 season. A COVID surge forced the group to wait until mid-February to begin rehearsals.
“I have a lifelong passion for pursuing peace and justice, and the chance to be director of the Rogue Valley Peace Choir was very appealing,” Campbell said.
It’s a satisfying job for him.
“A sense of common purpose is created when everyone is focused on making beautiful music,” he said. All that while proclaiming the importance of the choir’s mission and goals.
The choir is a secular group that welcomes anyone who can carry a tune.
“Come to our first rehearsal and give it a try,” Campbell said. “See if you like it. Meet some new people. Find out what fun it is to be part of a music ensemble.”
For more information, visit RogueValleyPeaceChoir.org.
Reach writer Jim Flint at email@example.com.