Los Angeles Music Preview: A CHANTICLEER CHRISTMAS (Disney Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on December 18, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


I may be enamored by the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s Festival of Carols, I may be enthralled by Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday Candlelight, I may be excited by the Gay Men’s Chorus’s Holiday Spectacular, but Chanticleer’s Christmas concert, which plays Disney Hall on Dec. 20, is always the best choral show of the season. I would go so far as to say that this is the best Christmas show, period. Chanticleer – based in San Francisco – is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for the seamless blend of its twelve male voices ranging from countertenor to bass, and its original interpretations of vocal literature from Renaissance to jazz and from gospel to venturesome new music.

Chanticleer, Performnce, San Francisco, CaliforniaUnlike most of the over-wrapped Christmas shows on the map, Chanticleer doesn’t need all the Rooty-toot-toot technical displays and Rummy-tum-tum sing-alongs to fully immerse you in the holiday spirit. What you will get is the ensemble’s immaculate phrasing, stimulating dynamics and polished, sophisticated presentation. Prepare yourself for an astonishing assortment of musical styles: European choral works, American spirituals, medieval chant and traditional carols. You’ll hear gorgeous works that span centuries from composers around the world. Heard at their recent concert in the Bay area were France’s Jean Mouton, Slovenia’s Jacob Handl, Italy’s Andrea Gabrieli, Spain’s Cristóbal de Morales, Estonia’s Arvo Pärt, and Sweden’s Jan Sandström. They will sing in English, Latin, German, Spanish and Russian. They will make you feel more festive than a trip to the Land of Sweets and more solemn than Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s.

chanticleerNamed for the “clear-singing” rooster in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer was founded in 1978 by tenor Louis Botto, who sang in the Ensemble until 1989 and served as Artistic Director until his death in 1997. After 10 years as a tenor in the ensemble, Matthew Oltman became Music Director in 2008, replacing Joseph H. Jennings. Members and directors come and go, and yet they sound just as good as they did at the group’s inception 35 years ago. A Chanticleer Christmas will be seen in 11 venues throughout the Bay Area, but there’s only one recital in Los Angeles.

deck-the-hallI have seen Chanticleer in churches, museums and concert halls at other times of the year, and they are always exquisite. The two Christmas shows I have seen began with a processional, and I dare you not to get goosebumps as they sing plainchant while holding candles. After hearing their pure tones on works from the Renaissance, or their sumptuous chromatics on contemporary music, they have always ended with Franz Biebl’s almost overwhelmingly exquisite “Ave Maria.” Your profound experience awaits.

photos courtesy of Chanticleer

A Chanticleer Christmas
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Friday, December 20, 2013, 8:00 PM
for tickets, or tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

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