St. Charles Singers to Traverse Seven Centuries of Song in CHORAL ECLECTIC Concerts
The St. Charles Singers, conducted by founder Jeffrey Hunt, will perform choral works from every century from the 1400s to the 2000s in its "Choral Eclectic" concerts 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16, 2016, at Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St., River Forest, Ill.; and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 17, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Ill.
"Seven centuries of song in 90 minutes" is how choirmaster Hunt describes the program of secular and sacred gems, mostly a cappella, that will conclude the professional chamber choir's 32nd annual concert season.
A highlight will be Thomas Tallis's rarely heard English Renaissance motet "Spem in alium" (Hope in any other) with 40 individual vocal parts. The late-16th-century sacred work expresses hope and trust in God. London's The Guardian newspaper called it "one of English music's most extraordinary compositions" and "a surging tapestry of sound." This deeply devotional work recently found an unlikely mass audience through its appearance in the best-selling adult novel "Fifty Shades of Grey."
The full ensemble, divided into mixed-voice "solo choirs," will encircle the audience for a surround-sound experience. Hunt says Tallis's score yields a lively musical give-and-take between the between the solo choirs. It also demands a high level of vocal artistry from all of the choristers because each has a solo role, he says. "Every voice is so important in this piece," Hunt says. "Each has moments of beautiful music making." This will be the first time in nearly two decades that the St. Charles Singers has performed the work.
The earliest composer on the program is Josquin des Prez (1450-1521), an international musical celebrity of Renaissance Europe. The St. Charles Singers will offer his four-part French song of romantic love, "Mille Regretz" (A Thousand Regrets), which became a hit in its time. Concertgoers will hear Orlande de Lassus's "Musica Dei donum optimi" (Music is a gift from God), his heartfelt, mature work of thanksgiving for a long life in music; Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's motet "Sicut cervus" (As the Hart); Claudio Monteverdi's passionately romantic Italian madrigal "Si ch'io vorrei morire" (Yes, I would like to die); Antonio Lotti's "Crucifixus 8," an eight-part motet based on text from the Mass; and J. S. Bach's "Dona nobis pacem" (Give us peace) from his monumental Mass in B Minor.
Also on the program: Anton Bruckner's motet "Locus iste" (This Place), with the rich, Romantic harmonies reminiscent of his well-known symphonies; acclaimed Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos's simple, graceful "Bendita sabedoria" (The Blessed Wisdom), comprising six sacred pieces based on the Old Testament; Pierre Villette's charming "Hymne á la Vierge" (Hymn to the Virgin); Benjamin Britten's "The Ballad of Green Broom" from his charming "Five Flower Songs"; Hugo Alfvén's serene "Aftonen" (Evening), with Swedish folk influences and an aura that Hunt describes as "moonlit radiance"; and Arvo Pärt's "The Deer's Cry," a colorful work that veers off in surprising directions.
A concluding set of twenty-first century choral works will include Bob Chilcott's "Oculi omnium" (The eyes of all), a beautiful a cappella setting of Psalm 145; Stacey V. Gibbs's captivating arrangement of "Great God Almighty," a traditional spiritual; and Grammy-winning choirmaster Craig Hella Johnson's vibrant arrangement of pop singer Carly Simon's award-winning song "Let the River Run," in which the St. Charles Singers will be joined by young choristers from its SING training program.
Eleven works on the program will be making their first appearances in a St. Charles Singers concert: the pieces by Josquin, Lassus, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Bach, Bruckner, Villa-Lobos, Pärt, Chilcott, Gibbs, and Johnson. The St. Charles Singers' new Klop positiv organ, acquired in 2015 and making its debut throughout the choir's 2015-2016 season, will accompany the choir in the works by Tallis, Lotti, and Bach. Ensemble organist is Scott Stevenson of Downers Grove.
Single tickets for St. Charles Singers "Choral Eclectic" concerts are $35 adult general admission, $30 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.
Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. The mixed-voice choir launched in St. Charles in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers. ClassicsToday.com calls the ensemble "one of North America's outstanding choirs," citing "charisma and top-notch musicianship" that "bring character and excitement to each piece."