Classical Album of the Week: Grammy-Winning Chanticleer Sings Songs from the Renaissance to Today

Nov 19, 2018

November 19, 2018. Here’s something to crow about — a new album released by the renowned male à cappella group Chanticleer. Out from Parlophone/Warner just in time for the holidays, and to celebrate Chanticleer’s 40th anniversary, Then and There, Here and Now is a delightful offering of music from the Renaissance (“then”) to the contemporary (“now.”)

 

Based in San Francisco, and named for the “clear-singing” rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer was founded by tenor Louis A. Botto, when he gathered a dozen singers around a dining room table in 1978 to sing madrigals and neglected music from the Renaissance.

That convivial beginning has pervaded the ensemble’s mission over its four-decade history, which includes multiple GRAMMY awards, an international touring schedule, vigorous outreach into underserved communities, and championing of new work. 

 

The sound of the ensemble has evolved over time, from the smooth, almost seamless blending of voices in decades past to a slightly edgier, more soloistic thrust in its newest configuration of 12 singers, six of whom sing counter-tenor, or soprano line. 

 

True to Chanticleer’s roots, Then and There, Here and Now, includes much music from the Renaissance by Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, William Byrd, Jacques Arcadelt. The familiar madrigal “Now is the Month of Maying” by Thomas Morley shows Chanticleer in jubilant form. 

One of the most striking works on the album comes from young American composer Mason Bates, in “Stelle, Vostre Mercé,” set to words by the Italian Renaissance playwright, poet and blackmailer Pietro Aretino. World music is offered in engaging arrangements from Ireland (“Dúlamán,”) Hungary-Romani (Járba, máré, járba,) and Yiddish theater, (Bei mir bist du schön.)

 

A significant and unique part of Chanticleer’s repertoire are the 100-plus arrangements of jazz, gospel music, and African-American spirituals by its former long-time Music Director Joseph Jennings. We hear two of Jennings’ arrangements: “Straight Street,” and the inspirational “Keep Your Hand on the Plow,” as well as two spiritual arrangements by Chanticleer’s late mentor Robert Shaw, with Alice Parker. 

 

The album finishes on a peaceful note, with Steven Stametz’s gorgeous “I Have Had Singing.”

 

This new treasure from Chanticleer kicks off a busy season, in which they’ll perform 52 concerts in 23 of the United States, and will embark on two European tours. We’re happy to share their newest music with WRTI listeners this week and beyond.