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December 8, 2003

Washington Post

The hundreds who braved Friday's slushy roads to hear Chanticleer perform its annual Christmas program at George Mason University's Center for the Arts found their risk was amply rewarded. The all-male a cappella group from San Francisco rarely faltered during its sonic journey through time in a program enhanced by simple choreography.

Walking onstage with lit tapers, the singers delivered a Gregorian chant with monastic solemnity, 12 voices blending effortlessly as one. A tambourine added a dancelike flavor to selections of Spanish Renaissance pieces. Shimmering chords marked the end of each polyphonic work.

The group achieved an orchestral sound in several modern pieces. For John Tavener's haunting "Village Wedding," the singers periodically rotated their circular formation and turned one by one to face the audience during solos. Such movement had a meditative effect upon the music, rendering it slightly incantational; at times Chanticleer's voices sounded like mystical oboes and bassoons. The work's last chord clung like mist and slowly dissipated.

Mimicking bells and cellos in the second half, the group explored traditional folk tunes and Christmas carols. The concert's only flaw occurred near the end of "O Holy Night," when an exuberant counterpoint drowned out the soloist -- a surprising phenomenon during an otherwise remarkably balanced performance. The evening concluded with "Christmas Medley," a toe-tapping rendition of carols and spirituals arranged by Chanticleer's music director, Joseph Jennings.

Posted by acapnews at December 8, 2003 10:25 PM


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