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March 2, 2005

Chanticleer's expert technique ties together diverse selections

The Oregonian (OR):

As warmly appreciative as Portland audiences tend to be, there's no lovefest quite like a local appearance by Chanticleer. The sold-out audience at Kaul Auditorium, where the 12-voice male choral ensemble performed Sunday afternoon, offered rapt attention and rapturous applause, as they always do when Chanticleer's in town -- and for good reason. The program was full of delights, the sound was spectacular and the singing was nearly flawless.

Over more than a quarter century and many changes in personnel, Chanticleer has maintained an extraordinarily polished tone, as evidenced by Sunday's concert. The singers were remarkably focused and unified; a plainsong setting of the "Ave Maria" provided an excellent demonstration of their rock-solid ensemble, and their balance and clarity were consistently fine throughout. Even in the densest chords, their tuning was sweet, sometimes thrillingly so.

The theme of the program was "Women, Saintly and Otherwise" -- all the works were about or by women -- but it was really Chanticleer's sterling technique that provided a unifying factor for wildly diverse selections spanning seven centuries. Emotionally, the music was as wide-ranging as could be, from the almost unbearable grief of Claudio Monteverdi's "Sestina," complete with keening sopranos in the penultimate verse, to the comedy of a setting of "The Ballad of Frankie and Johnny." But what might have seemed like a hodgepodge was brought together by lively pacing and sheer sonic beauty. The relative obscurity of the pieces also helped, lending a continual sense of discovery, and physically varying the arrangement of the singers added a subtle theatricality.

Captivating details were abundant, such as the seamless drone of John Tavener's "Song for Athene" and the bell-like chords of Jeeyoung Kim's "Mong-Gum-Po Taryung." And the same attention to detail prevailed regardless of the age of the music: in the earliest works, Chanticleer avoided the pious purity of many early music specialists, bringing Josquin Desprez' "Gaude virgo, mater Christi" and Thomas Weelkes' "As Vesta Was" alive with rhythmic spring and shapely dynamic contours.

Posted by acapnews at March 2, 2005 12:08 AM