Chanticleer presents Machaut’s “Messe de Nostre Dame” in Bay Area

(March 2024) — Multiple Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer – a group that “fascinates and enthralls … through luxurious perfection” (Los Angeles Times) – turns its attention this spring to Western music’s first notated large-scale, multi-movement work: Machaut’s landmark Messe de Nostre Dame, with four performances around the group’s home region of the San Francisco Bay Area (June 2–9). Chanticleer also continues touring the nature-inspired program “Music of a Silent World,” which features newly commissioned choral arrangements from The Rivers are our Brothers by Majel Connery and the world-premiere commission “I miss you like I miss the trees” on the subject of wildfires, written by Chanticleer composer-in-residence Ayanna Woods. U.S. tour destinations for “Music of a Silent World” range from the Midwest and Texas to the Northeast, including a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City’s Kaufman Music Center (April 18), where Music Director Tim Keeler used to teach high school. As a serene upbeat to all the above performances, this week Chanticleer appears in four Bay Area locations for an evening of meditation and mindfulness called “Breathe Together, Sing Together,” a combination of Gregorian and Buddhist chant, meditative Renaissance polyphony, and soothing contemporary compositions (March 21–24).

Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame (June 2–9)
French composer Guillaume de Machaut was one of the leading minds of the Middle Ages, a poet admired and imitated by Chaucer and the central figure in the musical style known as ars nova. He spent 23 of his younger years serving as secretary to John I, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, frequently traveling with him and becoming privy to some of the most historically significant military and political events of the time. Fortunate enough to survive the Black Death, he spent the later years of his comparatively long life supervising the creation of manuscripts of his complete works. Machaut’s masterpiece Messe de Nostre Dame is one of the first multi-movement, large-scale notated compositions to exist in the Western canon; the LA Times has called it the “genesis of modern music.” Sharing the program with Machaut’s magnum opus are secular songs of minstrels and bards from the Middle Ages, and Chanticleer’s performances culminate at the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition of early music (June 2–9).

“Music of a Silent World” (April 2–May 3)
Chanticleer’s new program this season, “Music of a Silent World,” centers on Majel Connery’s The Rivers are our Brothersa song cycle on ecological responsibility told from the point of view of the land. Each movement represents a different part of the Sierra Nevada’s natural beauty, from its mountains to its forests, rocks, rivers, and snowbanks. The title of the cycle is based on a quote from the Native American leader Chief Seattle, who believed humans must relate to their environment the way they relate to their closest kin. “The goal,” says Connery, “is to give nature a voice. I wanted to allow these vibrant things to speak on their own behalf.” As a solo song cycle, the work was first performed in the Sierra Valley as part of Musica Sierra’s Musical Headwaters program in 2021, and Musica Sierra served as co-commissioner with Chanticleer of the six choral arrangements being performed this season. In addition to the new commission from Chanticleer composer-in-residence Ayanna Woods, “Music of a Silent World” also includes music by Heinrich Isaac and Max Reger; and new arrangements of “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty and “The Weather” by Lawrence.

 Chanticleer’s 2023–24 season marks its biggest since the start of the pandemic, prior to which the twelve-voice ensemble – performing repertoire that spans ten centuries, from Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony and Romantic art song to contemporary music, jazz, spirituals and world music – kept up a schedule of approximately 100 performances a year around the world, cultivating an enormous and unswervingly loyal global family. Chanticleer’s latest album, On a Clear Day, earned a five-star review in Gramophone, which declared: “The group’s make up has changed often in the almost half-century of its existence, but the quality and commitment they bring to this recording must have been present from the beginning. … The entire programme is delivered with the skilful aplomb one expects from these voices.” The album joins a catalogue of more than 40 titles, released over four decades, which have sold well over a million copies.

Long-known for stylistic versatility, Chanticleer is especially well-positioned to appeal to a broad range of listeners in the era of social media marketing. Some of the group’s most recent and vocal enthusiasts have been reached through platforms like TikTok, on which the group recently released a sample of chant from the video game “Halo: Combat Evolved” that has received more than 7.2 million views since it was posted on November 15, 2023.

About Chanticleer
The Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for its wide-ranging repertoire and dazzling virtuosity. Founded in San Francisco in 1978 by singer and musicologist Louis Botto, Chanticleer quickly took its place as one of the most prolific recording and touring ensembles in the world, selling more than one million recordings and performing thousands of live concerts to audiences around the globe.

Rooted in the Renaissance, Chanticleer’s repertoire has been expanded to include a wide range of classical, gospel, jazz and popular music and to reflect a deep commitment to the commissioning of new compositions and arrangements. The ensemble has dedicated much of its vast recording catalogue to these commissions, garnering Grammy Awards for its recordings of Sir John Tavener’s Lamentations & Praises and the ambitious collection of commissioned works entitled Colors of Love. Chanticleer is the recipient of Chorus America’s Dale Warland Singers Commission Award and the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. During his tenure with Chanticleer, Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings received the Chorus America Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award for his contribution to the African American choral tradition.

Named for the “clear-singing” rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer continues to maintain ambitious programming in its hometown of San Francisco, including a large education and outreach program, and an annual concert series that includes its legendary holiday tradition, “A Chanticleer Christmas.”

High-resolution photos can be found here.

Chanticleer: Spring 2024 Engagements
“Meditation: Breathe together, Sing together”
March 21: Berkeley, CA (St. Mark’s Lutheran Church)
March 22: Santa Clara, CA (Mission Santa Clara)
March 23: San Francisco, CA (SFCM – Hume Concert Hall)
March 24: Sacramento, CA (St. John’s Lutheran Church)

“Music of a Silent World”
April 2: Brookings, SD (South Dakota State University)
April 5: Ames, IA (Iowa State University)
April 8: St. Louis, MO (Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis)
April 11: College Station, TX (Rudder Theatre)
April 12: San Antonio, TX (University of the Incarnate Word)
April 14: Pittsburgh, PA (Shadyside Presbyterian Church)
April 16: Selinsgrove, PA (Susquehanna University)
April 18: New York, NY (Kaufman Music Center, Merkin Hall)
April 19: Pawling, NY (Trinity-Pawling School)
April 20: Kennett Square, PA (Longwood Gardens)
April 27: Columbus, OH (Southern Theatre)
May 3: Kansas City, MO (Atonement Lutheran Church)

“Machaut – Messe de Nostre Dame
June 2: Sacramento, CA (St. John’s Lutheran Church)
June 7: San Francisco, CA (Grace Cathedral Quire)
June 8: Santa Clara, CA (Mission Santa Clara)
June 9: Berkeley, CA (First Church Berkeley)

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 © 21C Media Group, March 2024

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