Chanticleer: An Orchestra of Voices

‘It was like love traveling through space,’ said Eric Brenner, one of three sopranos, of the internationally renowned Chanticleer choir’s Friday, May 25 performance, ‘An Orchestra of Voices.’
Having established itself as one of America’s premier vocal ensembles, Chanticleer entered the UC Irvine Barclay Theatre for one night to perform several choral pieces under the theme ‘Love’s Messengers.’ Founded in 1978, the San Francisco all-male a cappella vocal orchestra Chanticleer derives its exceptional name from the ‘clear singing rooster’ in Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales.’
The group is composed of 12 voices: one bass, two baritones, three tenors, three altos and three sopranos. They have earned a positive reputation and considerable fame for their beautiful a cappella voices, ranging from early chant to Renaissance music, and from jazz to Broadway standards. Chanticleer’s newest recording, ‘And on Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass,’ was written to celebrate the life of Chanticleer’s founder, Louis Botto, on the 10th anniversary of his death.
Winners of the 2000 Grammy Award for best small ensemble performance, Chanticleer began their show with a song written by Gerald Finzi titled ‘My Spirit Sang All Day.’ The song had seven parts, including settings of poetry, and was an ecstatic declaration of the joy wrought by love. Following the piece was ‘Veni Sponsa Christi’ by Giovanni da Palestrina (1525-1594) and ‘Epithalame’ by Jean Yves Daniel-Lesur (1908-2002). Both of these works were sung in Latin, and were highly appreciated by the audience.
Chanticleer has performed at the Barclay Theatre for the last four years and has produced 28 recordings, including a variety of Christmas carols and pieces by an impressive array of other well-known composers and arrangers.
The singers also performed from one of their most highly acclaimed works, ‘Village Wedding,’ which describes a village wedding in Greece written as a series of musical and verbal images. John Tavener wrote this piece in 1992 for the Vale of Glamorgan Festival and delivered its first premier performance by the Hilliard Ensemble in 1995.
‘Nachtwache No. 1’ by Johannes Brahms, was among other favorite works performed, as well as ‘To Be Sung of a Summer Night on the Water’ by Frederick Delius (1862-1934) both of which depict the intimacy of the Renaissance madrigal.
Many have argued that Chanticleer’s voices are among the most versatile, virtuoso singers in the world today.
‘If you just close your eyes and listen to their deeply ingratiating sound, [it] feels as though they are actually standing right next to you,’ said first-year Japanese and international studies major Ming-Iun Hsieh. ‘The range, control, flexibility and power these singers possessed are simply breathtaking.’
The ensemble’s infallible sense of pitch and tight focus on their keenly expressive voiced throughout the concert has shown why they remain one of the top vocal groups in the United States today.
The London Daily Telegraph once wrote, ‘In everything Chanticleer does, you can only marvel at the amount of work that must have gone into producing such ease of execution and such glorious evening of entertainment.’
Whether you are a huge fan of the Baroque or just love good music, a Chanticleer concert at the Barclay is definitely a must-see for all backgrounds and levels of music appreciation.