A Great Start to Our 22nd Season

Ann McEwen Kelleyby Ann McEwen Kelley
Soprano I

After taking a summer break, the Sonoran Desert Chorale is back in rehearsals for another season of great music!

Our first rehearsal was a week ago. A fun reunion for most of us and a new experience for a new accompanist and a few new singers. We’re excited to have them!

earth, fire, wind, and waterIf you read your recent SDC email (go NOW if you’re not signed up to receive these!), this season will be a “musical exploration of the primal elements: earth, fire, wind, and water.” Like most everybody else, I did a quick “meet n’ greet” with the music: leafing through it to get acquainted, see if there was anything I’d sung before, and to see if we were going to sing anything by Earth, Wind and Fire. No dice.

We’ll be spending the next eight weeks with this music. Plenty o’ time to get WELL acquainted. Every bit of it is gorgeous! Of course. What else would we expect?

Stay tuned to this blog to follow our progress and to learn more about the music!

Mark your calendar for performances October 10 and 11. And remember, we’re at a new venue, La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church, for our Sunday afternoon performances.


Dramatic and Delightful, from Start to Finish

P1030521 - Version 2 by Shelby Hobart, tenor

This program’s material is not only challenging, but encourages everyone in the Sonoran Desert Chorale to develop and display a bit of flair, some joie de vivre.  We have so many talented people in our group and last Tuesday (a depaIMG_2786rture from our usual Thursday rehearsal, since it was holy week), another group of singers auditioned for various parts and characters in the diverse pieces we are performing.  During the course of the actual rehearsal, those who have been auditioning over the last two weeks were challenged to sing their solos in front of the group, enabling Jeff to make his final decisions.

In the first half of the program, the comic operetta HMS Pinafore (also known as the Lass that Loved a Sailor), contains several scenes in which soloists sing a mix of ensemble and solo parts, backed up by the chorus. It tells the story of love gained and lost midst the ranks of maritime personalities, heroes and damsels in some distress, as well as babies who’s social ranks were crossed at birth, but not discovered until they were adults.  It’s a tale of joy and woe, all set in rather absurd comic relief, with amusing character names such as Buttercup and Deadeye.  Needless to say, you’ll really enjoy this playful, lyrical romp aboard the HMS Pinafore.


Sara Guides our proper use of Italian

The second half of the program is where the choral literature takes off into an amazing run through some of the most famous opera choruses ever written.  Thrilling and delightful, many of these passages will be familiar to those with even the most passing interest in opera, such as the March of the Toreadors from Bizet’s Carmen, and the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco.  My personal favorite is the Pilgrim’s Chorus from Wagner’s Tannhauser, which the tenors and baOldStereoConsolesses sing with unfettered abandon.  As a child of five, I’d stand in the living room of our home in Houston in front of the stereo console, and pretend-conduct the orchestra to both the Overture and the Pilgrim’s Chorus.  Quite dramatic fun it was!

There wIMG_2788ill be several opportunities for the audience to join in singing some of the selections, both from the opera choruses and possibly the Andrew Lloyd Webber pieces as well, such as Phantom of the Opera, Evita, and others, though which ones are included in the sing-along hasn’t yet been finalized.

One thing for sure, is that you will come away humming and singing these infectious melodies for days afterwards, whether it be in the shower or the car.  Come, enjoy with us this amazing and diverse program, which is sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget!

Ship Ahoy!

image003By Captain Dave Oman

Well, I must say that the first rehearsal for this new segment was quite an experience!

Still basking in the glow of the Bluegrass Mass and the absolutely delightful experience with Run Boy Run this past weekend, I am suddenly taken ahold of by this new piece with the ship on the cover – HMS Pinafore or the Lass that Loved a Sailor. What an adventure this will be! image007

Now, I’m really not a sailor but I have the blood of one in my veins – my great grandfather Johan Eric was a skipper in Sweden and is pictured below. Do you see the resemblance? Well, maybe in the cap anyways! This is why I have always been attracted to ships, both old and new. Now I get to embark on a maritime musical adventure. I love adventure!


We had a great time wading through this sea of music and even though the wind and waves blew us around a bit it was generally good sailing! We also got to navigate through several other pieces from a musical compilation of opera choruses from composers such as Mozart, Puccini, Verde and Wagner.


Once again, our director Jeff Harris has charted a course of musical delights which we will bring to port on May 2nd and 3rd. So heave to and set your sails for the last leg of our musical journey in the 2014-2015 season.

image014To get there we’re going to need all hands on deck!

Casting off,

Capt. Dave

Sonoran Desert Chorale and Run Boy Run collaboration. Don’t miss it!

(Apologies from the editor for the delay in publishing this post. The March 7 concert referred to in Dave’s blog has come and gone. The Chorale and Run Boy Run presented an outstanding concert to a packed house! Don’t miss today’s encore performance at Valley Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley, AZ!)

Daveby Dave Oman
Bass II

It was 1978. I was living in the small town of Craig, Colorado when I went to a small Bluegrass festival in town to hear Vasser Clements and his bluegrass band. Vassar Carlton Clements (April 25, 1928 – August 16, 2005) was a Grammy Award-winning American jazz, swing, and bluegrass fiddler. He was dubbed the Father of Hillbilly Jazz, an improvisational style that blends and borrows from swing, hot jazz, and bluegrass along with roots also in country and other musical traditions. In other words, he could crank on that fiddle!

The venue was a makeshift stage in a field outside of town. It was a memorable evening and I’ve been a bluegrass music fan ever since.

When I joined the Sonoran Desert Chorale I was looking forward to quenching a thirst I had, to sing classical music that had for so many years been parched. That need has been more than sufficiently taken care of, to say the least! But, much to my surprise and delight, other types of music crept into the repertoire – music that has brought back fond memories of my Men’s Chorus group at the University of Minnesota. Wine, women and song stuff – and even soul! But, I never imagined that I’d be partaking in a concert like the one we will be performing on March 7th and 8th – with bluegrass music and with Run Boy Run to boot!

Garrison Keillor with Run Boy Run

Garrison Keillor with Run Boy Run

I first heard Run Boy Run in January 2013 when Garrison Keillor brought his Prairie Home Companion from my home state of Minnesota to ASU’s Gammage Auditorium in Tempe. It was a wonderful musical experience along with some good old Minnesota Scandahoovian humor.


Run Boy Run

Run Boy Run was the featured musical group consisting of an eclectic blend of a brother (who, by the way is a fiddling champion) and sister combo combined with two other sisters, one married to the brother and an unrelated bass player! And then there was the magical instrumental blend; a fiddle, viola, mandolin, cello and string bass combined with drop dead fantastic vocal harmony from the three ladies. The cello is the unique instrument in this mix, not standard fair for a bluegrass band, and it brings wonderful depth to their sound. What a musical treat this was to a man who is both a seasoned Prairie Home Companion show and bluegrass music fan!

Since that wonderful experience, I have heard Run Boy Run with the Phoenix Chorale and at the Wickenburg Bluegrass Festival. So, it is an incredible treat for me to be looking forward to singing with them!

And then came rehearsal tonight. It is always magical when the instruments are joined with the chorale for dress rehearsal. The music takes on a whole new depth. But this evening, this rehearsal was unique and wonderful. In addition to the instruments played by Run Boy Run, there was also a guitar and banjo. The banjo especially adds a facet to the music that no other bluegrass instrument does. The Bluegrass Mass took on a whole new air and it was with a whole new level of joy that we sang.

3.5.15.bandThe rest of the evening flew by – rehearsing the 2nd half of the concert material and then another run of several Bluegrass Mass sections. Voices and strings. Truly delightful!

So, this concert will feature Run Boy Run with added instruments along with the Chorale in performing “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass” plus a selection of early American hymns and folk songs. An additional concert highlight will be Run Boy Run presenting a set of their own songs.

So get yourself on down to Mesa on Saturday evening or Paradise Valley on Sunday afternoon. This will be a landmark concert experience that you just won’t want to miss!

Decision Time, and Who’s the Guy in the Weird Hat and Glasses?

P1030521 - Version 2by Shelby Hobart, Tenor

It’s hard to express how much I appreciate the work of our esteemed director, Jeff.  His work gets even more challenging at this point in the program, when he has to make final decisions about choosing our soloists, all of whom are incredibly talented.  I don’t envy his daunting task one bit! As Ann alluded to in the last blog entry, auditions have been held and soloists were finalized at last night’s rehearsal.

But wait! Of a sudden, a stranger emerged.  Here he is, sporting some sort of remotely familiar disguise.


He had jumped up at Jeff’s prompting, and began the solo for I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow!  from the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?  Eventually, the identity of this bearded, bespectacled party crasher became known.  It was none other than my fellow tenor, Tommy, adding a creative touch to his solo in that piece!  We all had grins on our faces, and it broke the tension of this next-to-last rehearsal for just a moment!

We have our “dress” rehearsal next Thursday, prior to our performances on March 7th and 8th.  Everyone’s brimming with anticipation, since that will be our first look at Run, Boy, Run, the renowned band mentioned in previous posts, who will accompany us throughout the program, but will be featured in the Blue Grass Mass, the awesome music that makes up the first half of our amazing concert.

The cool thing in our 7th of 8 total rehearsals (You read right…we only do eight rehearsals in preparation for our performances. That speaks volumes of the quality of all our members.), was that things are starting to gel musically.  The technical parts which we’ve been practicing are starting to click, much as a puzzle with complex parts eventually gets snapped together.  We are really beginning to realize the fruits of our labor and starting to make REALLY exciting music you won’t be able to resist!

This program will no doubt sell out, so if you’ve been considering purchasing a ticket, but haven’t yet made a move to do so, please be sure to contact one of our members to obtain one before they’re all gone.  Get ‘em while they’re hot, ’cause you won’t want to be left out in the cold on this one!

All aboard!

Ann McEwen Kelleyby Ann McEwen Kelley
Soprano I

There’s no stopping this Americana Music Train! It’s running full speed ahead to arrive at our performances March 7th and 8th. You’re gonna want to hop on this locomotive of memorable, toe-tapping, heart-moving music.

Last night many turned out to audition for the various solo and duet opportunities. It can be a nervous time, but everyone is generous with encouragement. So many good voices!


The Bluegrass Mass, with its intricate rhythms and acrobatic notes, is coming together nicely – as are all the other folk and hymn tunes. The familiarity and beauty of these tunes will make this concert a favorite with the audience. We love these pieces, too.

Some favorites include Tune My Heart to Sing God’s Praise, Ye Followers of the Lamb, The Road Home, and I am a Man of Constant Sorrow. Yep. That’s the one made famous by the movie, Oh Brother, Where art Thou?

Jeff is incorporating into the concerts a short segment of American history, by introducing Sacred Harp singing, a shape note style of notation popular in America in the 18th and early 19th centuries. We’ll be recreating a Sacred Harp session to the hymn favorite, What Wondrous Love is This? Pretty cool.

You’ll be sorry if you miss the upcoming concerts. Go now to buy tickets!

Mixin’ it up

JessBy Jess Libman

As we get ready for the upcoming concert, the anticipation has been building. Not only is our repertoire for this series very enjoyable to learn and sing, but the knowledge that we’ll be performing with Run Boy Run has added an extra layer of excitement.

Something special that has happened the last couple rehearsals is that we’ve had rotating accompanists: Patrick Fanning (who plays just beautifully) and the lovely Ms. Mary Ellen, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing  for quite a while now. She has officially accompanied 3 of the choirs I’ve been in within the past 10 years, and it’s always heart warming to see and hear her 🙂 It was interesting and fun to mix things up and get a different perspective on the accompanying parts (although Sara was dearly missed while away).

On top of all that, last week Joy (arguably the best section leader I’ve ever had, and very appropriately named) brought all the altos a Valentine’s Day gift box, full of chocolate goodies and even a Valentine! Thanks for making us feel so special and for caring enough about the section to lead us in a pre-sectional sectional. Viva Altos! Thursday rehearsals have been especially enjoyable this series and I can’t wait for everyone to see how this all comes together.

tenors.2.12Stay tuned for a one-of-a-kind concert that’s right around the corner. It will not be one to miss; see you there!