Chanticleer worked its particular brand of musical magic on its appreciative audience Monday evening. In a concert that highlighted Chanticleer's musical versatility, the ensemble dazzled the audience with a program that emphasized the rich tradition of choral music.
As a performing group, Chanticleer is almost without equal. Only England's Kings' Singers rival this group in versatility and talent. The singers in Chanticleer are simply superb. Theirs is a full, rich, vibrant sound.The group began the concert with an exciting mix of spiritually similar pieces. They started off with a modern plainchant with a text by T.S. Eliot, that segued into a lovely motet by the Spanish Renaissance composer Tomas Luis de Victoria. Victoria wrote some incomparably beautiful music, and this piece ("O vos omnes," based on a text from "Lamentations") is no exception.
This was linked to a more contemporary setting from "Lamentations" by the late Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera ("Ego vir videns paupertatem meam"). Ginastera's music has the feel and flavor of Renaissance music, and this is a very descriptive rendition of the text.
Chanticleer also did the three songs from Steven Stucky's "Cradle Songs." These are exciting and extremely difficult pieces to sing. The first song ("Rouxinol do pico preto") centers around one note. The piece is basically a unison that expands away from and always back to the same note. The singers need outstanding pitch control for this song to work.
The second song ("Lulajze Jezuniu") pits a soprano soloist against the rest of the group, and this solo intertwines with choral passages in close harmony.
The final song ("Buy Baby Ribbon") is once again centered around a single note, but it's livelier and more varied and rhythmic than the preceding two songs.
Another fantastic piece is John Tavener's "Village Wedding." The music is built around a recurring refrain that hovers over long-sustained tones, creating music that is haunting and almost hypnotic. Tav-ener has always been one of the most innovative, modern, yet very musical, composers of the late 20th century, and this work is just another example of his ingenuity.
Unfortunately, this evening had to come to an end but not before Chanticleer sang a couple of spirituals: "Sometime" and "Walk in Jerusalem." The singers did a convincing job with these songs, put-ting a lot of feeling and emotion into them.
There were also two encores: "Nellie Bly," and a Gaelic folk song that was sung in Gaelic (Chanticleer never ceases to amaze).