St. Charles Singers to Open 30th Season with LUMINESCENCE, 10/5-6
The St. Charles Singers, the internationally recognized professional chamber choir founded and conducted by Jeffrey Hunt, will launch its celebratory 30th season of choral artistry with a concert titled "Luminescence," to be presented in St. Charles on October 5 and Wheaton October 6.
The St. Charles Singers debuted in 1984 as the 14-member Mostly Madrigal Singers, made up of Hunt's musically talented friends and family members from the far western suburbs and elsewhere in the Chicago area. Its first public performance, on December 19 of that year in the Rainbow Room of the Hotel Baker in downtown St. Charles, was held as a benefit for the local Salvation Army. The concert of Christmas music raised $400 for the charity, Hunt recently recalled in telephone interview.
Today, the St. Charles Singers is an acclaimed choir of some 34 voices, all of whom audition for their positions and are compensated for rehearsals and concerts.
Over the decades, the choir has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, with whom it recorded a CD for the Naxos label. It has embarked on three European tours. The choir has sung live on Chicago's WFMT-FM and was the subject of a profile on WTTW-TV.
Notably, it has earned the respect of British composer and chorus master John Rutter, a choral music superstar of the English-speaking world, who has flown to the U.S. on several occasions to guest-conduct the St. Charles Singers in the western suburbs and Chicago - and will do so again in May for the St. Charles Singers' season-finale concerts.
Hunt says that if someone had predicted in 1984 that the ensemble would be concertizing with Rutter in the far western suburbs and also on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue, "I probably wouldn't have believed them. At the time, my only goal was to keep it going for as long as everyone was enjoying themselves."
The St. Charles Singers is also in the midst of its Mozart Journey, a multi-year initiative launched in 2010 that's providing audiences with the rare opportunity to hear all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sacred choral music.
The 2013-14 season concerts will reflect the ensemble's enthusiasm for Mozart, while celebrating its history and displaying its special strengths and Signature Sound, Hunt says.
Since its inception, the choir has sung more than 700 different works, Hunt says.
Despite that vast repertoire, its 30th anniversary concerts will include many pieces the choir has never sung before rather than relying on a "greatest hits" approach. "We'll be looking ahead more than we'll be looking back," Hunt says. "I expect we'll be making music for at least another 30 years."
"Luminescence" to Spotlight Radiant Singing
The St. Charles Singers opens its 30th season with "Luminescence," to be performed with the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles; and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 6, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton.
"Luminescence" will spotlight three choral works by Mozart, plus a group of motets by other composers on the theme of light, showing off the radiant sound for which the St. Charles Singers is known, Hunt says.
All of the music is new to the St. Charles Singers' repertoire.
The Mozart portion of the program includes the Hosanna, K. 223; Missa brevis, K. 65; and Solemn Vespers, K. 339.
Guest artist is the Men's Schola Choir from St. Vincent De Paul, Chicago, directed by Robert Beatty. The Schola will chant verses, called antiphons, before each of the Psalm movements of the Vespers.
The Mozart works represent the seventh and latest step in the professional chamber choir's progression through the composer's complete sacred choral works with the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra. This particular concert, however, is not billed as a "Mozart Journey" installment because of the inclusion of other composers.
Luminescent a cappella works will include the following motets: James MacMillan's "O Radiant Dawn"; Morten Lauridsen's "O Nata Lux" ("Born of Light"); Jake Runestad's "I will lift mine eyes"; Willam Harris's "Bring us, O Lord God"; and Charles Wood's "Hail Gladdening Light."
Christmas Concerts with Guitar in Chicago, St. Charles
The St. Charles Singers will present its Christmas concert, "Candlelight Carols: Carols and Anthems of the Season," at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 6, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, North Michigan Avenue at East Delaware Place, Chicago; at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 7, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles; and at 3 p.m., Sunday, December 8, at Baker Memorial in St. Charles.
The program will include four songs arranged for choir and guitar, the first time that instrument has made an appearance at a St. Charles Singers Christmas concert. Guest artist will be the widely admired, Croatian-born, genre-spanning classical guitarist Goran Ivanovic, who studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, with masters such as Elliot Fisk.
Ivanovic will accompany the choir in Al Houkom's "Rune of Hospitality," Jeffrey Van's "El Rorro" (The Babe) and "O Be Joyful," and Roy Zimmerman's "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." All are new additions to the St. Charles Singers' repertoire.
Other works new to the St. Charles Singers will include Robert Boyd's "Sing We Now of Christmas," Jonathan Dove's "The Three Kings," Robert Hanson's "The Air Is Still This Christmas Morn," Andrejs Jansons' "Balts sniedzins snieg uz skujinam" (A gentle snow is on the ground), Cecilia McDowall's "Now May We Singen," Paul Mealon's "O Sanctissima Maria," John Rutter's "Quem pastores laudavere" (Shepherds left their flocks a-straying); Steven Sametz's "Be We Merry," and David Willcocks' arrangement of "Deck the Halls."
In addition, a new work by Chicago composer Nathaniel Adams, "Blow, Blow the Winter Wind, written for the St. Charles Singers, will receive its world premiere.
Other works on the Christmas program include Rutter's "Mary's Lullaby" and "Past Three O'Clock" and Robert Shaw and Alice Parker's "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella."
In January, the St. Charles Singers and Metropolis Chamber Orchestra will be joined by Anima, the internationally recognized, Glen Ellyn-based youth choral organization, for "Mozart for the Masses," the eighth installment in the St. Charles Singers' Mozart Journey series.
Guest conductors Carl Grapentine, morning host at WFMT-FM, and Emily Ellsworth, Anima's artistic director, will lead performances of Mozart's Missa Brevis in C, K. 258; Missa Brevis in C, K. 259; Regina Coeli in B flat, K. 127, and Kyrie in G, K. 89.
Anima will perform with the St. Charles Singers in the Kyrie in G, K. 89.
Adding a playful touch to the proceedings, Anima will perform the charming romantic duet "Pa-pa-gena! Pa-pa-geno!" from Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute." The youth choir will also sing Michael Haydn's "Laudate Pueri Dominum" (Lord, Now We Praise Your Name).
Widely known as a classical radio personality, Grapentine, an alumnus of the University of Michigan's School of Music, is also an accomplished conductor and singer, with twenty-five years of experience as a church music director.
"Mozart for the Masses" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 25, at St. Vincent De Paul Church, 1010 W. Webster Ave., Chicago; and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 26, at Baker Memorial church in St. Charles.
Delivering a "Bouquet of Voices"
The phenomenally popular English composer and choral director John Rutter will return to the Chicago area to guest conduct the St. Charles Singers in its season-finale concert program, "Bouquet of Voices," at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church; and at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 30, at St. Michael Catholic Church in Wheaton.
The concert will feature Rutter's own sacred and secular music, including his Gloria for choir, brass and organ, with guest artists the Tower Brass of Chicago and organist John Scherer of Fourth Presbyterian Church. Rutter is also a noted interpreter of the works of other English choral composers. He'll conduct music by fellow countrymen Charles Stanford, William Byrd, Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, and others, plus French composer Claude Debussy's "Trois Chansons" ("Three Songs").
Single tickets for all concerts except the December "Candlelight Carols" programs are $40 general adult admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.
Tickets for "Candlelight Carols" are $30 general adult admission, $20 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.
Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.