Elite Men’s Chorus Dazzles in ‘Secret Heart’ Program
By D. Rane Danubian
artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance
Week of Sept. 19-26, 2016
Vol. 19, No. 3
SANTA CLARA—The virtuoso singers of Chanticleer were ardently declaring their love for all parties concerned. Their “Secret Heart” program from many sources, languages and centuries will whisk them around Northern California with that heart-to-heart musical message.
The 12 are as versatile as ever, performing classical men’s chorus pieces, mixed-chorus, and choirs for men and boys, utiliizing their unique component of male altos and sopranos—the treasure chest that is Chanticleer’s long-standing secret. All of it unaccompanied, rather miraculously.AND sung scrupulously in tune.
The chorus’ super-sleuths were at it again. Modern love songs, we all know. But Chanticleer’s research staff ferrets out such songs from musty archives in four-century-old Latin polyphony, so similar to a thousand Renaissance sacred pieces except for the text, which can be quite sensual. This repertory is entirely new, even to those who have followed this group since the start. From the earliest efforts right up to the more streamlined 16th-century music of Palestrina we got artfully interwoven compositions of Guerrero, Clemens non Papa, Vivanco and l’Heritier.
The Sept. 17 highlight was the world premiere of “Hommage a Edith” by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mantyjarvi, 53. It is set to a poem by the early 20th-century Finnish-Swedish poet Edith Sodergran, offering one’s heart to “an unknown god…high up in the clouds.” The composer uses bold harmonies over a pedal point , with mild dissonance. The short work is characterized by somber Scandavian restraint.
A poem by the Elizabethan Edmung Waller delves into the mysterious and unplumbed in Eric Whitacre’s “Go, Lovely Rose:” Zounds, written and sung in English!
The most compelling solo of the night was by alto Cortez Mitchell, providing the seamless “ah..ah…ah”‘s of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” in an unusual arrangement for voice only. It brought down the house.
A set of novel chromatic love songs by Augusta Read Thomas, 52, featured the novelty of the singers rolling raucously with laughter. Modern works also included a spiritual by Freddie Mercury (“Find Me Somebody to Love” in an arrangement) and torchy songs by Francis Poulenc and Noel Coward. Quite a night of high professionalism, all in all, capped by an encore via the Irish folk song “Down by the Salley Gardens.” They did Music Director Fred Scott proud.
A note about the beautiful Mission Santa Clara Church, bathed outside appropriately by a full moon. Like so many stone or plaster-dominated interiors, this one provides rich and, yes, sensual resonances for those sitting up close, particularly from the higher voices. Sitting toward the back of the hall however afforded a no less appealing acoustic environment, with closer bonding of ensemble as well as somewhat greater intelligibility. Take your pick, or try both!
Chanticleer, a dozen male a cappella voices in the “My Secret Heart” repertory, in many Bay Area cities through Sept. 25. For Chanticleer info: go online.
©D. Rane Danubian 2016
D. Rane Danubian has been covering the dance and modern-music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area with relish — and a certain amount of salsa — for years.
These critiques appearing weekly (or sometimes semi-weekly, but never weakly) will focus on dance and new musical creativity in performance, with forays into books (by authors of the region), theater and recordings by local artists as well.