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

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by Tony Frankel on December 6, 2014

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 A Chanticleer Christmas, which plays Disney Hall on Dec. 18, 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. Based in San Francisco, Chanticleer 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.

06_chanticleer_smUnlike 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 this year’s Bay Area concerts are Sweden’s Fredrik Sixten (“Rose of Roses”), England’s John Francis Wade (“Portuguese Hymn”), Germany’s Hugo Distler (“Lo, how a Rose e’er Blooming”), and Finland’s Jaakko Mäntyjärvi (“The Voice of the Child”). 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.

Chanticleer, Performance, San Francisco, CA, Photo-by-Wernher-KruteinNamed 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. This year, Ragnar Bolin is the Guest Music Director. Members and directors may come and go, yet Chanticleer sounds 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, and it’s always a sell-out.

chanticleerI have seen Chanticleer in churches, museums and concert halls at other times of the year, and they are always exquisite. The three 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, and their sumptuous chromatics on contemporary music, they have always ended with Franz Biebl’s overwhelmingly exquisite “Ave Maria.” Your profound experience awaits.


photos courtesy of Chanticleer

A Chanticleer Christmas
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 8:00 PM
for tickets, or tickets, call 323.850.2000 or visit www.laphil.com

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