Here is a great review in the Madison Magazine from our February 21st performance:
Chanticleer still sets the standard
The “world’s reigning male chorus” still gets it right after all these yearsAuthor: Greg Hettmansberger
Not everyone was in a hurry to leave their seats at intermission of the concert presented by [Chanticleer] www.chanticleer.org in Shannon Hall Saturday night. Some of us just had to catch our breath, even if the dozen men on stage never seemed to. A gentleman one row back was heard to say: “They’re so precise!” Italics and exclamation point were in his voice, not an editorial addition.
Few better descriptions could have been given more succinctly: In half a program that already spanned over four hundred years, Chanticleer again and again made each style authentic with energy and yes, precision that may be matched, but hard to imagine it being exceeded.
Yours truly expected no less, although it has been at least sixteen years since I’d heard the ensemble in live performance. Not surprisingly, only one current member was singing with them back then—but the group had already been around for a little over twenty years, and personnel turnover is a gradual, but regular thing.
This season’s program is “The Gypsy in My Soul,” music inspired by, if not originally from, the spirit of the nomadic folks of central Europe. Fittingly, the group opened with an arrangement of “Wayfaring Stranger,” that began with a single voice, then two, gradually building to the full complement of voices. Next came part of what the group does best (which is saying something): A set of three motets from Palestrina, Byrd and Victoria, with the outer examples each a setting of lines from the Jews’ exile in Babylon.
Astonishing variety of mood, language and style followed in selections from Poulenc’s sassy and saucy “Chansons Francaises,” modern folk-like original songs by Ligeti, and actual Hungarian folksongs arranged by Bartok. In between came a stunning arrangement of Villa-Lobos “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5,” that ubiquitous and seductive music originally for soprano and eight cellos. Alto Cortez Mitchell was the hypnotic soloist, and the ensemble made the “accompaniment” virtually orchestral.
The second half featured some extraordinary rarities from Rautavaara and Falla, with a compelling “Nino de rosas” of contemporary composer Steven Sametz. His setting of the seventeenth-century text of Jacinto de Evia describes an encounter between a gypsy girl and Christ as a child, and the result was mesmerizing and provocative.
Too many tantalizing possibilities were listed from the closing set of “to be selected from,” but we were treated to an amusing and beguiling “Caravan” of Duke Ellington, “Journey to Recife” by Dick Evans and Brian Hinman’s arrangement retitled “Swing Down, Chariot.” Many in the nearly sold-out house must have had their appetites whetted, as a throng lingered to talk with members of the group and purchase a CD or two in the Sunset Lounge adjacent to the Union Theater’s Shannon Hall. It had been a night to recall memories … and make some new ones.