Richard and I heard *A Chanticleer Christmas* on 12/1/17. Chanticleer is a twelve-member all-male choral ensemble, but rather than your typical men's chorus, half of them are counter tenors, so they're able to do typical four-part music - - soprano, alto, tenor, bass. The blend is sublime, their artistry is first rate. It's not unusual for beautiful music to move me to tears, but it's not often that I have tears STREAMING down my FACE.
The concert was at St. Ignatius of Loyola, a huge, gorgeous church. This was when the Catholic Church had real money! What an impressive space, and the acoustic is something else. The concert started with the lights going out and the ensemble processing down the center aisle, singing the plainsong chant "Christe Redemptor Ominum," holding candles. They arrived at the front of the church, arranged themselves in a semi-circle, and launched into Hassler's "Verbum Caro Factor Est," such a stunning transition. Then the candles went out, the lights came up, and they did the rest of the concert.
I'll just give you a few more highlights. They did a set of songs called *Star of Wonder,* arranged by their Music Director Emeritus, Joseph H. Jennings. The arrangement used the hymn "We Three Kings" as its foundation and added inventive, meaningful things around it. The harmonies went off in wacko, unexpected directions here and there - - I got a strong whiff of Gene Peurling, the genius who did the out there arrangements for Singers Unlimited.
Soprano Cortez Mitchell sang the solo in Reger's "Mariä Wiegenlied," and what a sweet and creamy voice he has. The next piece was a Chanticleer favorite, Biebl's "Ave Maria," a heavenly piece of music.
Richard and I were sitting next to a charming gentleman named Phil, he introduced himself as soon as we sat down and we talked with him for quite a while. He told us he came all the way from North Carolina to hear that piece!
The programming of the concert was remarkable, a thoughtful mix of high classical, light classical, traditional Christmas carols, and a few "world music" pieces, some with percussion. The last piece, "Come An' See," featured the tenor soloist a-hootin' and a-hollerin', a serious case of what I call Whitey Goes Ethnic. The audience ate it up. I was relieved that they came out to do an encore, a stunning arrangement of "In the Bleak Midwinter," with soprano Logan S. Shields singing the solo. He had the pure and full sound of an English choirboy, which was a little incongruous, since he appears to be about 25 years old and six foot two.
I have two friends in the group - - Alan Reinhardt and I used to sing together in Cerddorion here in NYC...
...and Gerrod Pagenkopf and I were friends in Madison.
We talked with them for a little bit after the concert, it was such a treat to see them. Gerrod shared two reasons why this program is particularly enjoyable: for one thing, it's easier, vocally speaking, than their typical concert. And he said it's a treat to look into the audience and see people smiling! That's not always the case, with some of the newer music they do...
This was the fourth or fifth time I've heard the group, but the first time in probably fifteen years. They're coming back to New York in April, and I'll be there!