Press Room

Chanticleer Releases On a Clear Day (April 21), Collaborates with San Francisco Girls Chorus, Continues National Tour, & More This Spring

Chanticleer (photo: Stephen K Mack)

“One of the world’s best” – San Francisco Chronicle on Chanticleer

Leading vocal group Chanticleer expands its already vast, multiple Grammy-winning discography with On a Clear Day. Due for digital release by Platoon on April 21, the new album showcases premiere studio recordings of music commissioned by and arranged for the choir over the past two decades, together with other favorites. One of the featured works is by Chanticleer’s 2022-23 Composer-in-Residence, Ayanna Woods, whose next world premiere commission forms the centerpiece of the ensemble’s upcoming live collaboration with the San Francisco Girls Chorus (March 17–21). Meanwhile, Chanticleer visits 14 additional U.S. cities on its ongoing “Labyrinths” tour (Feb 26–May 7), before returning to the Bay Area for candlelit, season-closing concerts to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of English Renaissance master William Byrd (June 7–11).

New album: On a Clear Day

Over the 45 years since its founding, Chanticleer has expanded its repertoire to reflect a deep commitment to commissioning new choral compositions and arrangements. Much of the ensemble’s expansive catalogue – including its Grammy-winning recordings of Sir John Tavener’s Lamentations & Praises and of new works on Colors of Love – is dedicated to these commissions.

Largely comprising the first studio recordings of music commissioned by, or arranged for, the group, On a Clear Day traces an emotional arc from darkness to light. It opens with Barekhosutyamb; as heard in Chanticleer’s “Darkness to Light” 2020 Christmas concert, this is a powerfully contemplative setting from the Armenian Divine Liturgy by the father of modern Armenian music, Komitas Vardapet. Next follow three Chanticleer commissions: “Die Lorelei,” an ethereal Heine setting from Sirens by Grammy-winner Mason Bates; “All Night,” a study of loneliness from The Lotus Lovers by Grammy-winner Stephen Paulus; and “Lullaby,” in which a father tries to comfort his child amidst the sounds of war, from Paradise by “gifted young composer” Shawn Crouch (Gramophone).

Both the works that follow strike a more hopeful note. “The Rewaking” is a William Carlos Williams setting by Augusta Read Thomas, whose long association with Chanticleer dates back to Colors of Love, while “close[r], now” is a pandemic-themed piece commissioned by the choir for its film After a Dream. The work’s composer, Grammy-nominated Chicago native Ayanna Woods, now serves as Chanticleer’s Composer-in-Residence. She explains:

“I’m excited and deeply grateful to be welcomed as Chanticleer’s Composer-in-Residence during this singular moment in choral music, and for the opportunity to deepen my practice as a composer. When we first joined forces remotely in 2021 for close[r], now, even from halfway across the country I was struck by Tim [Keeler]’s thoughtfulness and vision as a collaborator and music director. I’m thrilled to have that piece featured on Chanticleer’s upcoming album, On a Clear Day.”

Birds of Paradise, which casts the singers as birds, was commissioned by the ensemble from Steven Sametz, “one of the most respected choral composers in America” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Scored for just six singers, “Bambula” is an upbeat Cuban dance from De-Orishas by 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winner Tania León, another of Chanticleer’s longtime collaborators. The last of the album’s featured commissions is “Strange how we can walk (in L.A.)” from Trade Winds by Zhou Tian, the first Chinese-born composer to earn a Grammy nomination for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.” Continuing to reflect Chanticleer’s ongoing commitment to traditionally underrepresented composers, “Blow, blow thou winter wind” is a Shakespeare setting by George Walker, the first Black American to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.

The recording concludes with three favorite songs in arrangements commissioned by the ensemble: Harold Arlen’s torch song “Stormy Weather,” as arranged for Chanticleer’s tenth anniversary by vocal jazz legend Gene Puerling; Joni Mitchell’s 1968 classic “Both Sides Now,” in a singular adaptation by Vince Peterson; and the title track, Burton Lane’s “On a Clear Day.” Arranged for the chorus by Puerling back in 2000, but never performed or recorded until its recent rediscovery, Lane’s showtune expresses hope, wonder and a clarity of vision about life, goals and relationships.

Reflecting on this program, Tim Keeler, Chanticleer’s Music Director, comments:

“Chanticleer has been committed to furthering the choral arts since its founding in 1978. This album gives us a chance to showcase some of our favorite commissions from the past 20 years, and to highlight our past and future relationships with some of America’s best choral composers and arrangers.”

“Neighbor Tones”: Bay Area concerts with San Francisco Girls Chorus

In live performance, Chanticleer devotes much of the present season to its loyal fans at home in the Bay Area. For “Neighbor Tones,” a program of new music scored for both male and female voices, the ensemble partners with one of its talented neighbors, the multiple Grammy-winning San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC), at concerts in San Francisco (March 17), Berkeley (March 18) and Santa Clara (March 21).

By way of a live introduction to Chanticleer’s 2022-23 Composer-in-Residence, Ayanna Woods, the program showcases the world premiere of the opening movement of Years of Light, the first new commission of her tenure. Woods, who describes her music as “wildly improvisational and mathematically rigorous,” has been recognized with Third Coast Percussion’s 2017 Emerging Composers Partnership, a 2017 3Arts Make a Wave grant, and a 2020 DCASE Individual Artist Program grant. Over the course of her 18-month residency, she will also write a piece for Chanticleer’s 2023-24 touring program and will regularly take part in the choir’s ongoing work with Bay Area schools and community choral programs.

“Neighbor Tones” sees Chanticleer join forces with SFGC for Woods’s new work; for Trevor Weston’s O Daedalus, fly away home; for vocal jazz quartet säje’s Desert Song; and for Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria, a Chanticleer holiday favorite. Also on the program are SFGC’s performances of works by Ysaye M. Barnwell, Richard Danielpour, Philip Glass and Matthew Welch, as well as Chanticleer’s own renditions of Woods’s close[r], now, Byrd’s Civitas sancti tui and a traditional slave song medleyGod’s gonna trouble – arranged by Jonathan Woody.

“Labyrinths” program on continuation of U.S. tour

The “Neighbor Tones” concerts are flanked by dates in the ongoing national “Labyrinths” tour, which takes the choir from Waleska, GA to Lubbock, TX this winter and spring (Feb 26–May 7; see full details below). Launched last fall, the program explores life’s labyrinthine journey and all the inevitable twists and turns it takes through music spanning five centuries. Some of the songs and works heard on On a Clear Day rub shoulders with an eclectic selection by composers ranging from Josquin des Prez to Trevor Weston and Caroline Shaw. “Chanticleer’s brilliance and adaptability to an astounding range of musical styles and periods remains beyond question,” notes the Boston Musical Intelligencer. As the Washington Post confirms, “You feel stunned by the power of their communicativeness.”

“Music for a Hidden Chapel”: Bay Area tribute to William Byrd

To draw its 45th season to a close, Chanticleer returns to the Bay Area for “Music for a Hidden Chapel,” a program commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd (1539/40–1623). A great Catholic composer who wrote, paradoxically, for England’s Elizabeth I, a Protestant queen, Byrd will be remembered in Belvedere (June 7), Santa Clara (June 8), San Francisco (June 10) and Sacramento (June 11) with candlelit evenings of incense, soaring polyphony and meditative chant.

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, its 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.

New recording: On a Clear Day

Digital release date: April 21
Label: Platoon

KOMITAS: Barekhosutyamb
Mason BATES: “Die Lorelei” from Sirens (Chanticleer commission, 2008)
Stephen PAULUS: “All night” from The Lotus Lovers (Chanticleer commission, 2011)
Shawn CROUCH: “Lullaby” from Paradise (Chanticleer commission, 2009)
Augusta READ THOMAS: The Rewaking
Ayanna WOODS: close[r], now (Chanticleer commission, 2021)
Steven SAMETZ: Birds of Paradise (Chanticleer commission, 2020)
Tania LEÓN: “Bambula” from De-Orishas
Zhou TIAN: “Strange how we can walk (in L.A.)” from Trade Winds (Chanticleer commission, 2019)
WALKER: Blow, blow, thou winter wind
ARLEN (arr. Gene Puerling): “Stormy Weather” (arranged for Chanticleer, 1988)
Joni MITCHELL (arr. Vince Peterson): “Both Sides Now” (arranged for Chanticleer, 2013)
LANE (arr. Gene Puerling): “On A Clear Day” (arranged for Chanticleer, 2000)

Bay Area concerts with San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC): “Neighbor Tones”

March 17: San Francisco, CA (Herbst Theatre)
March 18: Berkeley, CA (First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley)
March 21: Santa Clara, CA (Mission Santa Clara)

Ayanna WOODS: Years of Light, movement I (world premiere of Chanticleer co-commission; both choirs)
Matthew WELCH: Tomorrow’s Memories (SFGC only)
Ayanna WOODS: close[r], now (Chanticleer only)
Richard DANIELPOUR: “Baba Afzal Kashani” from Three Parables (SFGC only)
BYRD: Civitas sancti tui (Chanticleer only)
Ysaye M. BARNWELL: Wanting memories (SFGC only)
SÄJE (arr. Erin Bentlage): Desert Song (both choirs)
Trevor WESTON: O Daedalus, fly away home (both choirs)
Philip GLASS: Father Death Blues (SFGC only)
TRADITIONAL (arr. Jonathan Woody): God’s gonna trouble (Chanticleer only)
BIEBL: Ave Maria (both choirs)

National tour: “Labyrinths”

Feb 26: Waleska, GA
Feb 27: Spartanburg, SC
Feb 28: Johnson City, TN
March 2: Opelika, AL
March 3: Athens, GA
March 5: Jacksonville Beach, FL (free admission)
April 21: Corning, NY
April 22: Hunter, NY
April 23: Deep River, CT
April 28: Pacific Palisades, CA
April 30: La Jolla, CA
May 2: Alexandria, LA
May 5: Knoxville, TN
May 7: Lubbock, TX

DES PREZ: In exitu Israel
TINCTORIS: Virgo Dei throno Digna
ANON: Tu pauperum refugium
Stephen PAULUS: “All night” from The Lotus Lovers (Chanticleer commission)
SILL (arr. Adam Ward): Lopin’ along through the cosmos
Zhou TIAN: “Strange how we can walk (in L.A.)” from Trade Winds (Chanticleer commission)
Trevor WESTON: O Daedalus, fly away home
TRADITIONAL (arr. Jonathan Woody): “God’s gonna trouble”
Steven SAMETZ: ¡O llama de amor viva!
WALKER: Blow, blow thou winter wind
ARLEN (arr. Gene Puerling): “Stormy Weather” (arranged for Chanticleer)
Joni MITCHELL (arr. Vince Peterson): “Both Sides Now” (arranged for Chanticleer)
Caroline SHAW: “Her beacon-hand beckons” from To the Hands
Tania LEÓN: “Bambula” from De-Orishas
Doyle LAWSON, WALLER & Robert YATES (arr. Joseph H. Jennings): “Calling My Children Home”
Additional rep. TBA

Bay Area concerts: “Music for a Hidden Chapel”

June 7: Belvedere, CA (St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church)
June 8: Santa Clara, CA (Mission Santa Clara)
June 10: San Francisco, CA (Grace Cathedral)
June 11: Sacramento, CA (St. John’s Lutheran)

BYRD: sacred works

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© 21C Media Group, February 2023


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