Singers from the North Coast are invited to join the Astoria Music Festival Orchestra and Chorus for a rousing outdoor performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (also known as the "Ode to Joy") as the finale to the festival July 25.

Rehearsals in Astoria will begin at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, led by Alexandra Myers. The text will be sung in German. Anyone with prior choral experience may pick up a copy of the music at the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Myers and local singers with the North Coast Chorale will lead five additional rehearsals before the Astoria chorus is joined by singers from throughout the Northwest, including the 65-voice Columbia Chorale from St. Helens, for the performance. Its director, Ryan Heller, will be the chorus master. "From a historical standpoint, this is the first major orchestral work by a major composer on a symphonic scale to utilize singers," Heller said. "It's an incredibly demanding piece, with extremes of range and dynamics - but it's so gratifying because he (Beethoven) uses the voice as part of the orchestral forces."

Featured soloists include bass Richard Zeller, tenor Jason Ogan, alto Christine Meadows and soprano Janice Johnson. Zeller, one of America's leading baritones, is known for his concert and opera roles, including appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Meadows made her professional debut with Portland Opera in 1986 and has made appearances with numerous American opera companies.

The chorus, which is expected to comprise around 120 voices, will perform with the Astoria Music Festival Orchestra, directed by Keith Clark, in open-air concert at 4 p.m. July 25 at John Warren Field, next to Columbia Memorial Hospital. The public is invited to attend the concert at no charge. Vendors will sell beer, wine and Viennese delicacies.

"We want to end the whole festival with the community involved," said AMF Director Katherine Matschiner, "with a sound that resounds throughout Astoria."

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