GREEN BAY, WIS., (WFRV) – Without having sung a note, the vocal group Chanticleer was cheered Friday night as the 12 men walked out on stage at Ralph Holter Auditorium of Green Bay West High School. The cheers were a rarity for a formal concert and certainly for the host Brown County Civic Music Association. It’s a great way to kick start performers. The effect that has on the group, in my imagination: “Whoa, the crowd is ready. We’re liked. Let’s roll.”
And roll Chanticleer did in an exquisite concert (5 stars out of 5) steeped in precision and finesse.
Highlights of the evening:
- On first impression, the four sopranos of Chanticleer set the group apart. Whether haunting in 16th century chant-like sounds from monasteries or carrying the load in the encore’s “Keep Your Hand on the Plow,” those voices leapt throughout the hall.
- Without any gimmicks, without the aid of microphone and without any instruments, the human voice is a marvel when so well trained and practiced as this group’s.
- The opening selections gave the impression of slowly drifting in rich streams of sound.
- The concert theme of “She Said/He Said” is esoteric and gives the group structure around words from religious adoration to sexual impulses (in a quaint manner).
- For each selection, the singers took up different configurations on stage. It was sort of like the Green Bay Packers lining up for different plays. (Yes, there was a football reference in the show: “I’m a Chicago Bears fan,” one singer announced during his turn to introduce a song. It was worth a chuckle).
- Reverential and reverie-like early selections on the program were sung in Latin, Italian, German and French, with no rock-the-boat dissonance until the deep “Let Down the Bars, O Death” and “‘Wait’ Fantasy,” both sung in English and both of pithy thought.
- Contemporary selections on the second half explored a wide variety of aural landscapes. “Give Me Hunger” was driving to the point of being shrill (for effect) before becoming reflective. “
- My favorite was “Both Sides Now” for its sweet yet melancholy reflection.
The concert was the start of Civic Music’s 87th season. The organization of volunteers adds to the region’s cultural scene by hiring in refined performers.
The reputation of the San Francisco-based Chanticleer produced a crowd that was a bit bigger than usual for Civic Music. The performance produced a standing ovation at the end.
For details on this program and other ventures of Civic Music, I suggest you sign up at the group’s website (www.bccivicmusic.org) for the “e-notes” newsletter, which for Chanticleer especially is stoked with information (titles, composers, texts, notes on the music, translations).
REST OF SEASON: International Chamber Soloists, Nov. 2; New Century Saxophone Quartet, March 9; organist Paul Jacobs, April 11; Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, May 17.
THE VENUE: Ralph Holter Auditorium for decades served as
THE PERSON: Ralph Holter spoke softly and carried a big impact. He was conductor of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, which performed regularly in the hall that bears his name. Holter taught music at
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