What would motivate 130 people to spend two hours every Tuesday evening,
looking at the little back dots and squiggles in a music book, and then
turning that information into glorious chords and melodies first conceived
do this, and it’s so engaging and fulfilling that most return to the
Siskiyou Singers year after year. Some have even returned for twenty-five years!
Flash back to 1982, when former Ashland resident Jacqueline Dougherty
founded this community choir, then numbering about 35 and named the Siskiyou
Chamber Singers. Now fast forward to 2007–up to a dozen of those original
singers are still with the group, which has more than tripled in size. What
inspired them then, and keeps bringing them back?
Jim Martin was present the very first night, and recalls that the
choir took a road trip to Roseburg that first season. They gave a concert at
Umpqua Community College and many stayed overnight with local
families. Mamie Kreisman also joined the first night; the choir helps her
continue as a singer even though she is in her 80’s.
Carolyn Federico, another charter member, has warm memories of quartets
and solos, of songs in foreign languages, of caroling and potlucks, all
overlaid with camaraderie and enthusiasm. “There was no group like it in the
Rogue Valley!” she says.
Now the Singers are putting finishing touches on “Five Centuries of
Choral Music,” their December concert. A typical rehearsal begins with Dave
Marston, Music Director of the chorus since 1988, leading the warm-up and then
plunging into the evening’s schedule. He knows exactly what he wants from the
choir, and knows how to get it by encouraging, demonstrating, joking,
cajoling, and even demanding at times. His good humor and patience seem to be endless! Pianist
Joseph Yungen, a music major at SOU, accompanies with aplomb and precision.
Marston has estimated that over the years well over a thousand people
have been part of the Siskiyou Singers…nurses, massage therapists,
computer programmers, graphic designers, social workers, students…truly a
cross-section of our community. Family groups have even spanned three
generations, such as Carol Hwoschinsky, daughter Suzanne Barnes, and
granddaughter Natasha Barnes, who sang together before Natasha left for
college this fall. The pleasure of learning and sharing this gorgeous music
draws all ages back again and again!
by Mary Ann Jones