Former Choral director and Professor Emeritus John Ross was teacher, mentor and friend to legions of RCC students, drawing them in with his trademark wry humor, then capturing their hearts with the music he loved: classic motets and lively madrigals, folk songs, spirituals and jazz standards.
More than 40 alumni have signed on to participate in a memorial concert, scheduled for July 19 at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Riverside, and organizers welcome other former Ross singers – or “minions,” as he sometimes called them – to the group.
Ross, who died in October, directed choirs and taught music at RCC for 25 years, from 1971 until retirement in 1996. During that time he also led the Riverside Master Chorale for five years and the Riverside Chamber Choir for 10. He and his singers toured Europe and the continental United States.
The John T. Ross Alumni Singers plan to perform some of Ross’s favorite pieces, including Bruckner’s Os Justi, Vaughan Williams’ See the Chariot at Hand, Weelkes’ As Vesta Was From Latmos Hill Descending, and Durufle’s Ubi Caritas. Ross’s RCC accompanist, Marilyn Rader, will play several pieces with the group; other music will be performed a cappella.
Many of Ross’s students followed in his footsteps by becoming choral conductors themselves, and three of them will be responsible for much of the music direction at the concert.
Brent Ayotte of Riverside sang at RCC in the mid-1970s and student-conducted the Chamber Singers for two years. He has directed choirs at several churches, including Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. His 20-voice a cappella group performs throughout Southern California.
Heather Dolph Kinkennon sang at RCC in the mid-1980s. Also an assistant to Ross, she went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music and conducting from UCLA. She now teaches at Antelope Valley College and composes and directs several community choirs.
Composer, music director, singer and pianist Michael Upward has written more than 50 choral pieces and several full-length musicals, including "Bend in the Road," which premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse and was performed last year at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Rehearsals for the concert will begin in June in Riverside. RCC choir alumni who would like to join the John T. Ross Alumni Singers may contact Michael Upward at (909) 337-7867, or email Kinkennon at Hkinkennon@avc.edu
by May 30.