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Chanticleer thrills a packed house at Georgetown's St. John's Church

Chanticleer receives a standing ovation from the audience, including artistic director of the series Samuel Carabetta. (front left)
Chanticleer receives a standing ovation from the audience, including artistic director of the series Samuel Carabetta. (front left)
Photo taken by the author.



To end the second season of the Georgetown Concert Series hosted at St. John's Church Georgetown, the Grammy® award-winning ensemble Chanticleer performed a variety of music before the large, enthusiastic audience in the church's sanctuary. After a few words from the church's interim rector, artistic director of the series and the church's organist/choirmaster Samuel Carabetta expressed his appreciation to the audience for their support of the series. In his remarks, he also acknowledged the generous grant of $15,000 by the Mars Foundation to assist in funding the series.

Themed "He Said, She Said" the program featured a wide variety of works by male composers and their female contemporaries. The first set of the program began with four works from the Renaissance period. Thematically centered on the Virgin Mary, the ensemble sang with a pure, almost translucent quality that brought the listener into the age of sacred antiquity. The opening "Gaude gloriosa" by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina set the stage for the concert with its buoyant, moving vocal lines that intertwined the other. Perhaps the most well-known hymn to the Virgin Mary, the "Regina caeli laetare" was introduced to the audience in the musical setting of Tomás Luis de Victoria. The long, opening phrases in the beginning section provided the perfect contrast to the more intricate "Alleluja" passages of the work.

The female composer Hildegard von Bingen's "O frodens virga" in its simplicity was a sure standout from the rest of the motets. Not utilizing a lot of movement or necessarily expansive harmonies, Bingen's work was that in its unadorned state captured the listener immediately. The solo vocal line intoned over the sustained lower voices, almost like a drone was quite stunning and ethereal in effect. Exploring the secular choral side of the Renaissance, the ensemble offered the "Tirsi morir volea" by Andrea Gabrieli and "Quando nascesti amor."

The music of both Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn provided the group to reveal another vocal timbre of their voices. In Fanny Mendelssohn's "Schöne Fremde" and Felix Mendelssohn's "Wasserfahrt" the voices took on a new, darker presence, especially now present in the upper voices and sustained basses. Briefly visiting the music of the Romantic period, the set closed with "Nachtwache" by Johannes Brahms. The Trois Chansons of Maurice Ravel followed. "Nicolette" was almost playful in nature with the voices of the ensemble dancing around one another, perfectly illustrating the vignette of frolicking, open fields and skipping through daffodils. Transporting the audience into music for the 20th century were "Let Down the Bars, O Death" by Samuel Barber and "Wait" arr. by Steve Hackman, "Give Me Hunger" by Stacy Garrop and Eric Whitacre's "A Boy and Girl."

Among the most exquisite vocal offerings during the second half of the concert was "Flower of Beauty" by John Clements. Marked by lush harmonies and taffy pulling suspensions in the alto line, the voices of the ensemble truly found their rightful home in the acoustic of the church's sanctuary. In "Oy Polná," the rich, robust voices of the basses was the conduit of a lighthearted journey into the streets of Russia.

Now at the end of a full, varied concert of choral music, the program ended with the standards "Both Sides and Now" by Joni Mitchell "Willow Weep for Me" and the spiritual "Keep Your Hand on the Plow" both arranged by Joseph Jennings. After a rousing standing ovation, Chanticleer performed Cole Porter's "So in Love.

A festive champagne reception followed in the church's Blake Hall where the audience members had the opportunity to greet the artists. The Georgetown Concert Series openings next season on Sunday, October 26, 2014 with a concert by the Vienna Boys Choir.