A&F Newsletter

Winter 2004


Grammy Award-Winning Chanticleer

Chanticleer, hailed by the New Yorker magazine as “the world’s reigning male chorus,” and praised by the Los Angeles Times for its “luxurious perfection,” will perform in the Robert Brown Theatre on Jan. 27, 2005. The Grammy Award-winning ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, and $5 for students K-12. Tickets may be purchased from the Sid Regnier Bookstore, 207 W. Fifth Ave., Arkansas City, or by phone at (620) 441-5277 or from the Wichita metropolitan area, 554-2700 ext. 5277.

The group is in the midst of a 75-concert tour through 28 states, including a 26-concert season in the San Francisco Bay area, where the group originated. The ensemble’s 28th CD, “How Sweet the Sound: Spirituals and Traditional Gospel Music,” debuted in September and has been a Billboard bestseller since its release on Warner Classics. It appeared on the crossover chart (No. 4 position) as well as the gospel chart. The recording is Chanticleer’s second full-length gospel recording, and features arrangements by Music Director Joseph Jennings and additional vocals by guest artist Bishop Yvette Flunder.

Chanticleer has developed a remarkable reputation for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to venturesome new music. With its seamless blend of 12 male voices, ranging from countertenor to bass, the ensemble has earned international renown as “an orchestra of voices.” Parade magazine selected the album as one of the fall’s most captivating releases: “For more than 25 years, Chanticleer has been combining black spirituals and ingenious classical arrangements, with glorious results.

The group’s latest, How Sweet the Sound, can take the edge off the grimmest evening news—and it rocks!” A writer for Billboard called the pairing of Bishop Flunder with Chanticleer “inspired,” noting, “(it) will certainly appeal to a very wide swath of listeners. (Flunder’s) no-holds-barred soulfulness is artfully framed by the plush sound of Chanticleer (whose precision is as tight as a drum).” The Seattle Times recently named the album one of the best CDs of the season.

Chanticleer’s fans will no doubt rejoice at the news that one of the group’s most popular Christmas albums, Our Heart’s Joy, will be re-released this holiday season. Recorded in 1990 for the group’s own imprint, Chanticleer Records (CR 8803-2004), Our Heart’s Joy has been completely re-mastered. Along with substantially improved audio quality, the new version incorporates five tracks from another early CD, Psallite! A Renaissance Christmas.

Through the years, Chanticleer founder Louis Botto was often asked if, when he began the group, he had any idea it would become what it is today: the only independent full-time classical vocal ensemble in the United States. He would usually answer “yes,” with a broad smile and a twinkle in his eye. Yet no one can say for certain what future Louis saw for that group of singers he convened around a dining room table in San Francisco back in 1978.

As a graduate student in musicology at a Bay Area college, Louis found it odd that much of the repertoire he was studying—vocal music of the medieval and Renaissance periods—was not being performed. So he decided to form a group to sing this neglected repertoire, using only male voices, as was the tradition in most churches during the Renaissance. Louis turned to members of choirs in which he sang, including friends in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and the Grace Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, asking if they might be interested in this endeavor. Nine members were selected, including Louis (who sang tenor), and rehearsals began for their maiden performance. But the group needed a name. One of the founding members, baritone Charlie Erikson, was in the midst of reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and he suggested Chanticleer, the name of the “clear singing” rooster in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. The name appealed to everyone, and Chanticleer debuted on June 27, 1978, before a capacity audience at San Francisco’s historic Old Mission Dolores.

More than 75 men have sung in the ensemble since its inception, and each one has contributed something unique and valuable to the group. A defining moment in Chanticleer’s history came in 1983, when Jennings joined the group as a countertenor. The other singers quickly recognized his talent, and asked him to become the ensemble’s music director. The bulk of Chanticleer’s performances have been solo a cappella concerts. Chanticleer has had the opportunity to sing in some of the most beautiful concert halls and churches in the world. But the group has also sung in a barn in Canada, a roofless church in the former East Germany, a gymnasium in Sweden, and in Central Park with the New York Philharmonic.


Winter 2004