The St. Charles Singers, the internationally recognized professional chamber choir founded and conducted by Jeffrey Hunt, will launch its celebratory 30th season of choral artistry with a concert titled “Luminescence,” to be presented in St. Charles on Oct. 5 and Wheaton on Oct. 6.
The St. Charles Singers debuted in 1984, as the 14-member Mostly Madrigal Singers. Today, it's an acclaimed choir of some 34 voices. Over the decades, the choir has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, with whom it recorded a CD for the Naxos label. It has embarked on three European tours. The choir has sung live on Chicago’s WFMT-FM and was the subject of a profile on WTTW-TV.
Notably, it has earned the respect of British composer and chorus master John Rutter, a choral music superstar of the English-speaking world, who has flown to the U.S. on several occasions to guest conduct the St. Charles Singers in the western suburbs and Chicago — and will do so again in May for the St. Charles Singers’ season-finale concerts. The May venues will be in Wheaton and Chicago.
Hunt says that if someone had predicted in 1984 that the ensemble would be concertizing with Rutter in the far western suburbs and also on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue, “I probably wouldn’t have believed them. At the time, my only goal was to keep it going for as long as everyone was enjoying themselves.”
The St. Charles Singers is also in the midst of its "Mozart Journey," a multi-year initiative launched in 2010 that’s providing audiences with the rare opportunity to hear all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s religious choral music.
The 2013-14 season concerts will reflect the ensemble’s enthusiasm for Mozart, while celebrating its history and displaying its special strengths and signature sound, Hunt said. Since its inception, the choir has sung more than 700 different works.
Despite the vast repertoire, its 30th anniversary concerts will include many pieces the choir has never sung before – rather than relying on a “greatest hits” approach.
“We’ll be looking ahead more than we’ll be looking back,” Hunt said.
“Luminescence” to spotlight radiant singing
The St. Charles Singers opens its 30th season with "Luminescence," to be performed with the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles; and at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton.
"Luminescence" will spotlight three choral works by Mozart, plus a group of motets by other composers on the theme of light, showing off the radiant sound for which the St. Charles Singers is known, Hunt said.
All of the music is new to the St. Charles Singers’ repertoire.
The Mozart portion of the program includes the Hosanna, K. 223; Missa brevis, K. 65; and Solemn Vespers, K. 339.
Guest artist is the Men's Schola Choir from St. Vincent de Paul, Chicago, directed by Robert Beatty. The Schola will chant verses, called antiphons, before each of the Psalm movements of the Vespers.
The Mozart works represent the seventh and latest step in the professional chamber choir's progression through the composer’s complete religious choral works with the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra. This particular concert, however, is not billed as a "Mozart Journey" installment because of the inclusion of other composers.
Luminescent a cappella works will include the following motets: James MacMillan’s “O Radiant Dawn”; Morten Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux” (“Born of Light”); Jake Runestad’s “I will lift mine eyes”; Willam Harris’s “Bring us, O Lord God”; and Charles Wood’s “Hail Gladdening Light.”
Christmas concerts with guitar
The St. Charles Singers will present its Christmas concert, “Candlelight Carols: Carols and Anthems of the Season,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, North Michigan Avenue and East Delaware Place, Chicago; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, St. Charles; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, also at Baker Memorial.
Guest artist will be the Croatian-born, genre-spanning classical guitarist Goran Ivanovic, who studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, with masters such as Elliot Fisk.
Among the new works in the Christmas concerts will be a work composed by Westmont resident and choir member Robert Boyd, “Sing We Now of Christmas.”
In January, the St. Charles Singers and Metropolis Chamber Orchestra will be joined by Anima, the internationally recognized, Glen Ellyn-based youth choral organization, for “Mozart for the Masses,” the eighth installment in the St. Charles Singers’ Mozart Journey series.
Guest conductors Carl Grapentine, morning host at WFMT-FM, and Emily Ellsworth, Anima’s artistic director, will lead performances of Mozart’s Missa Brevis in C, K. 258; Missa Brevis in C, K. 259; Regina Coeli in B flat, K. 127, and Kyrie in G, K. 89.
Anima will perform with the St. Charles Singers in the Kyrie in G, K. 89.
Adding a playful touch to the proceedings, Anima will perform the romantic duet “Pa-pa-gena! Pa-pa-geno!” from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” The youth choir also will sing Michael Haydn’s “Laudate Pueri Dominum” ("Lord, Now We Praise Your Name").
“Mozart for the Masses” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 1010 W. Webster Ave., Chicago; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at Baker Memorial church in St. Charles.
Delivering a “Bouquet of Voices”
The phenomenally popular English composer and choral director John Rutter will return to the Chicago area to guest conduct the St. Charles Singers in “Bouquet of Voices” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church; and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 30, at St. Michael Catholic Church in Wheaton.
The concert will feature Rutter’s own religious and secular music, including his Gloria for choir, brass and organ, with guest artists the Tower Brass of Chicago and organist John Scherer of Fourth Presbyterian Church. Rutter is also a noted interpreter of the works of other English choral composers. He’ll conduct music by fellow countrymen Charles Stanford, William Byrd, Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, and others, plus French composer Claude Debussy’s “Trois Chansons” (“Three Songs”).
Single tickets for all concerts except the December “Candlelight Carols” programs cost $40 for general adult admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.
Tickets for “Candlelight Carols” cost $30, $20 and $10, respectively.
Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets may be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.