St. Charles Singers to Premiere New Work by John Rutter June 21 in Chicago
The St. Charles Singers, conducted by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will present the world premiere of a new work written for them by revered English composer and choirmaster John Rutter when the professional chamber choir performs June 21, 2018, in a concert hosted by Chorus America, a choral music association, during its national conference in Chicago.
The concert, which will showcase three Chicago-area choral groups, will be at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, at Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams St., Chicago. In addition to the St. Charles Singers, Anima-Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus, and Cantate Chicago also will perform. Tickets, available to the public, are $20 and can be purchased online at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272.
Rutter, a superstar in the choral music world, is a friend and fan of the St. Charles Singers and has conducted the choir on several occasions in the U.S.
The new piece, for unaccompanied mixed-voice choir, is a setting of William Shakespeare’s romantic Sonnet No. 18, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”
The score, on which Rutter inscribed “Written for Jeff Hunt and the St. Charles Singers,” was commissioned by anonymous donors as a gift to the choir on the eve of its 35th concert season, 2018–2019. “It’s a huge honor that John Rutter accepted this commission,” Hunt says. “That’s a gift in itself. And we’re thrilled that he chose to set Shakespeare’s words to music for us.”
Hunt describes the piece as “quintessential Rutter” and “a remarkable work with stunning vocal lines that match the sonnet miraculously.”
What’s unusual in this work, Hunt says, is that Rutter assigned the melody to the bass section, rather than to the sopranos. “So often in his music, sopranos take the lead, accompanied by men’s voices.”
Audiences heard previews of the song at the St. Charles Singers’ April concerts in River Forest and St. Charles, Ill., and at a concert with the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble in St. Charles.
In choral music, Rutter “is probably the most popular and widely performed composer of his generation,” according to Grove Music Online, an authoritative reference source. “Rutter’s particular gift is for skilled craftsmanship and memorable phrase.” His music “typically breathes a gentle and melodious spirit” and can also be “joyful, rhythmic and fleet.”
The St. Charles Singers will open its concert with British composer Robert Pearsall’s “Lay a Garland,” an eight-part Victorian madrigal influenced by Renaissance music.
The choir will perform Benjamin Britten’s virtuosic “Hymn to St. Cecilia” for five-part choir and soloists, from 1942, with text by poet W. H. Auden.
Hunt calls it “one of the finest pieces of choral music ever written.” Audiences will hear “sophisticated use of word-painting, with the melody emulating what’s happening in the words.”
The concert will include choral arrangements of English folk songs: James Byrt’s “Among the Leaves So Green, O” and Cecilia McDowell’s “Green Bushes.”
The program will conclude with two songs from the St. Charles Singers’ forthcoming album, “American Reflections”: Shawn Kirchner’s soulful rendering of the folk tune “Bright Morning Stars” and Kirchner’s bluegrass-infused setting of the 19th-century spiritual “Unclouded Day.”
St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in the program include sopranos Jeanne Fornari of Batavia, Marybeth Kurnat of Cortland, Laura Johnson of Hanover Park, Cynthia Spiegel of La Fox, Meredith Du Bon and Jennifer Gingrich of Naperville, AnDréa James and Jess Palmisano of St. Charles, Chelsea Rhodes of Sycamore, and Karen Lukose of Winfield.
Members of the alto section are Christina Collins of Arlington Heights, Valerie Heinkel-Bollero and Margaret Fox of Batavia, Liz Hutchinson of Glen Ellyn, Julie Popplewell of North Aurora, Bridget Kancler of Oak Park, and Debby Wilder of Wheeling.
Tenors are Rob Campbell of DeKalb, Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker of Elburn, Jonathan Cramer of Gurnee, Aaron James of St. Charles, Gregor King of Sycamore, David Hunt of Wayne, and Steve Williamson of West Chicago.
The choir’s bass section includes Jess Koehn and Michael Thoms of Aurora, Brandon Fox of Batavia, Anthony Quaranta of Carol Stream, Andrew Toniolo of Glen Ellyn, David Hartley of Lake in the Hills, Mike Popplewell of North Aurora, and Drayton Eggleson of Sycamore.
St. Charles Singers
Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. The mixed-voice choir launched in St. Charles, Ill., in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers. ClassicsToday.com calls the ensemble “one of North America’s outstanding choirs,” citing “charisma and top-notch musicianship” that “bring character and excitement to each piece.” Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein has described the ensemble as “splendidly disciplined, beautifully responsive” and proclaimed, “Chamber chorus singing doesn’t get much better than this.”