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September 22, 2010

Music review: Chanticleer's 'Out of This World'

San Francisco Chronicle:

Thematic programming is always a fine thing, even if it's often little more than a pretext for a musical group to do more or less what it was going to do anyway. That was certainly the impression left by "Out of This World," the season-opening program by the men's chorus Chanticleer, which had a beautiful performance Sunday at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The program covered a broad swath of musical ground, from Renaissance polyphony and Romantic offerings to more recent works in both a classical and popular vein, and all of it was sung with the group's characteristic blend of suavity and transparency. When you can sing all this music so well, it's a shame to leave any of it out.

What ostensibly tied the lineup together was a focus on celestial bodies - planets, galaxies, stars, what have you. And that theme was in fact key to two contemporary works: Mason Bates' "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud," which had its world premiere, and "Island in Space," Kirke Mechem's settings of two texts about Earth seen from an interplanetary perspective.

The rest was merely an excuse, opening the gates for any sacred polyphonic works mentioning heaven (are there many of those, do you reckon?), any Renaissance madrigals mentioning stars, any pop songs whose lyrics include the word "world," and Britten's gorgeous "Hymn to St. Cecilia" just because.

But what of that? The fine blend of these 12 voices, together with a noticeable improvement in rhythmic control, made nearly all of the program rewarding on its own terms. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at September 22, 2010 12:00 AM

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