This is a dynamic opportunity for children to learn choral singing and cultural awareness through a world music choir.
Hi Shaun & Jenifer, thanks for speaking with us today to do this interview. You have some exciting news today. Please tell us about it.
The Rogue World Choristers is a new program in which children are introduced to cultural traditions from around the world through song. After working hard but joyfully, the children really pulled off their first performance last November to a packed house. It was quite something to see. We had our moments when we wondered… but in the end it all worked out and came together. Our next session beginning in January continues the excitement, with new music and new cultures to explore.
This sounds great. Please talk about the inspiration behind the Choristers.
A children’s choir based on world folk music has been a long-time vision of Rogue World Music Founder Megan Danforth. After establishing the Ensemble, the adult world music choir, Megan set the wheels in motion to provide a similar experience for youngsters. We have a grounded but ambitious goal at Rogue World Music with our Ensemble and Choristers – to connect the community through song. We believe that by bringing all of us together through music, understanding and learning the traditions, stories, joys and pains of being human, we unite.
This is really an opportunity to get started in musical education, experience and exposure.
There is no prerequisite to be involved other than a love of singing. This is where their musical journey and education can begin. They gain music experience through exposure in the rehearsal process/setting.
Please introduce us to your directors and what they bring to the table.
Shaun Garner, Artistic Director – Shaun is the Music Director of the Rogue World Ensemble, as well as Music Director for the Rogue Valley Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Ashland and Director of the Cantare Chorus, an auditioned middle school choir with the Rogue Valley Youth Choruses. She brings a wide range of experience in choral and symphonic music, and has worked with choirs of all ages.
Jenifer Knippel, Assistant Director – Jenifer is an Ashland native. After exploring Europe and the East Coast after high school, she got her Bachelors in Saxophone Performance and Music Composition at Southern Oregon University. During these years, she traveled to Zimbabwe to study music and dance, then traveled through China performing with her saxophone in a quartet and then a saxophone orchestra. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree at the University of Oregon in Intermedia Music Technology where she interfaced music, technology and performance.
Shaun and Jenifer, tell us more about your love and appreciation for folk music.
Shaun: World folk music springs from the ground of human experience and helps us develop compassion and understanding of cultures we might otherwise not be exposed to. It allows us as directors to teach children about where music really comes from – not an industry but a village of people who want to express their experiences, who want to communicate their lives and hearts with one another. It’s also a terrific chance to learn how to really work together in a deep way through voice and to learn we are all made better through combining our talents.
Jenifer: I love folk music because often the topics are subjects we can relate to – work, love, household tendings, children, heart desires and longing. Also, many folk songs come from the most portable and accessible instrument, our voices! Folk music connects us to the land and to our people.
How many kids do you plan to have in your group?
Our first session had 20 enthusiastic singers. We’re hoping to expand on that number this spring. We welcome singers ages 9 and up.
Are there any fees or costs associated?
$100 per 12-week session, with a price break for multiple singers in one family.
You will be holding practice on Wednesdays from 4 to 5:15?
Yes, rehearsals are at the Havurah Center on Mountain Street.
You mention that folk music is very accessible. Please say more.
The topics relate to everyday life. Despite cultural differences, technologies, weather and ways – we all wash our clothes, clean our homes, love people, notice the sun and rain, and often live lives that go unnoticed by others until we lift ourselves in song and express. Folk music is truthful. Children are attuned to truth and they easily relate to it and to everyday experience, since this mirrors their own lives.
How do you work with the different ages groups in your choir?
Just as this music crosses cultures, it bridges age as well. We are one choir, children singing as one voice. We create opportunities for more experienced singers to work with those less experienced through mentorship, to further the bond that comes from singing together. Among the many gems we receive from Choristers is watching this connection grow between children. They’ll always have this transformative experience to build on.
You sing songs from all around the world. Please tell us about some of the recent songs you have sung.
Jenifer: “Bi Bi og Blaka” and “Takeda” are cradle songs from Iceland and Japan respectively. “Bi Bi og Blaka” is a nighttime lullaby similar to our “Rock-a-bye Baby.” “Takeda” is a song about “unwilling babysitting, and the desire to go to a festival instead.” We also sang a tune from Germany about hunting the cuckoo bird.
How do you go about finding these songs and how do you learn them yourselves? Then how does this translate over to kids?
Shaun: Choirs across America are discovering music beyond our borders. There is a great interest from both musicians and audience in hearing world music and experiencing new sounds. Also, Ashland has many multi-cultural musicians who are eager to share their experiences and repertoire.
Jenifer: I visited Iceland and the lyrics of “Bi Bi og Blaka” were printed on the airline’s pillow cases! We look for inspiration literally everywhere. We read music or listen to music to learn the songs, and then we teach the children through the rehearsal process. If the child wants to learn – and most do – they will.
Your choristers are singing with live instrumentalists. Please say more.
Jenifer: We are a unique choir because we use additional instruments besides the standard piano or guitar. This last season we utilized a Koto (a Japanese folk string instrument played across the lap and plucked with tiny paddles – the bridges are in the middle of the instrument) and musician Mitsuki Dazai-Church from Portland played with us. She accompanied “Takeda” in traditional Japanese Koto style. A SOU music grad student accompanied “Bi Bi og Blaka” with his orchestral harp. It was so meaningful to see how these instrumentalists made a positive impact on the kids.
Can you tell us more about the individual experiences you’ve seen children have?
Jenifer: I’ve seen children grow in confidence, hold their heads up higher and walk straighter. They learn about breath and posture and it affects their lives in health and self esteem. They find out about other cultures, and many dream of traveling to the places they’ve discovered and exploring more in person. They become world citizens and they care what happens to their world and its people. This offers the potential for big impact. Singing together is a shared and intimate connection of individual and collective growth. They get such joy and pride and want to share that with each other, their friends and family and the greater community. It’s really inspiring to witness.
In addition to singing, is dancing a big part of the Choristers?
Yes it is. We have the opportunity to incorporate dancing, especially with the African music programming. We also aim to incorporate drumming along with the dance.
What is the next step if we would like to get involved?
Register online, call and talk to us… practice begins soon. Check out the website, and email Shaun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rogue World Music
2305-C Ashland Street, #421
Check out their website here