Chanticleer Biography

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Called “the world’s reigning male chorus” by The New Yorker magazine, the San Francisco based GRAMMY® award winning ensemble Chanticleer celebrates its 37th season in 2014-15, performing in 25 of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for their “tonal luxuriance and crisply etched clarity,” Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for the seamless blend of its twelve male voices ranging from soprano to bass and its original interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz and popular genres, as well as contemporary compositions. 

Chanticleer’s 23-concert 2014-15 Bay Area Season opened in September with The Gypsy in My Soul, featuring music by Gabrieli, Palestrina, Victoria, Poulenc, Villa-Lobos, Ligeti, de Falla, Ellington, Gershwin, Jobim and Weill; and featuring new arrangements by two current Chanticleer singers. A Chanticleer Christmas is in high demand at the Christmas season with performances from coast-to-coast in venues including New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola, Chicago’s First Presbyterian Church, Walt Disney Concert Hall and churches and missions in the San Francisco Bay Area. A Chanticleer Christmas is broadcast annually on over 300 affiliated public radio stations nationwide. June sees Chanticleer return to its roots in Renaissance music with Spanish Gold.

Chanticleer’s National Youth Choral Festival—at which 300 high school choral singers from around the country will join the Ensemble and special guests Dolora Zajick and Ragnar Bohlin for four day of learning and singing—will have its finale in Davies Symphony Hall on March 30, 2015. Inaugurated in 2010, the National Youth Choral Festival is part of Chanticleer’s extensive nation-wide outreach to students. With the help of individual contributions, foundation and corporate support, the Ensemble engages over 5,000 young people annually. The Louis A. Botto (LAB) Choir—an after-school honors program for high school and college students—is now in its fifth year, adding to the ongoing program of in-school clinics and workshops; Youth Choral Festivals™ in the Bay Area and around the country; master classes for university students nationwide; and the Chanticleer in Sonoma summer workshop for adult choral singers. The Singing Life—a documentary about Chanticleer’s work with young people—was released in 2008. Chanticleer’s education program was recognized with the 2010 Chorus America Education Outreach Award.

Since Chanticleer began releasing recordings in 1981, the group has sold well over a million and won two GRAMMY® awards. Chanticleer’s recordings are distributed by Chanticleer, Naxos, ArkivMusic, and iTunes among others, and are available on Chanticleer’s website, Chanticleer will release a live recording of The Gypsy in My Soul on its Chanticleer Live in Concert (CLIC) series. 

Chanticleer’s long-standing commitment to commissioning and performing new works was honored in 2008 by the inaugural Dale Warland/Chorus America Commissioning Award and the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming. Among the over eighty composers commissioned in Chanticleer’s history are Mark Adamo, Mason Bates, Régis Campo, Chen Yi, David Conte, Shawn Crouch, Douglas J. Cuomo, Brent Michael Davids, Anthony Davis, Gabriela Lena Frank, Guido López-Gavilán, Stacy Garrop, William Hawley, Jake Heggie, Jackson Hill, Kamran Ince, Jeeyoung Kim, Tania León, Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, Michael McGlynn, Peter Michaelides, John Musto, Tarik O’Regan, Roxanna Panufnik, Stephen Paulus, Shulamit Ran, Bernard Rands, Steven Sametz, Carlos Sanchez-Guttierez, Jan Sandström, Paul Schoenfield, Steven Stucky, John Tavener, Augusta Read Thomas and Janike Vandervelde.

In 2014 Chorus America conferred the inaugural Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award on Chanticleer’s Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings to acknowledge his contribution to the African-American choral tradition during his 25-year (1983-2009) tenure as a singer and music director with Chanticleer. The hundred plus arrangements of African-American gospel, spirituals and jazz made by Jennings for Chanticleer have been given thousands of performances worldwide—live and on broadcast—and have been recorded for Warner Classics and Chanticleer Records. Jennings retired from Chanticleer in 2009;  his arrangements continue to be a signature part of Chanticleer’s repertoire.

Named for the “clear-singing” rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer was founded in 1978 by tenor Louis A. Botto, who sang in the Ensemble until 1989 and served as Artistic Director until his death in 1997. Chanticleer was named Ensemble of the Year by Musical America in 2008, and installed in the American Classical Music Hall of Fame the same year. William Fred Scott begins his tenure as Chanticleer’s fifth Music Director in 2015.

Chanticleer—a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation—is the current recipient of major grants from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Dunard Fund/USA, The Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, The Bob Ross Foundation, The Wallis Foundation, Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund, and The National Endowment for the Arts. Chanticleer’s activities as a not-for-profit corporation are supported by its administrative staff and Board of Trustees.