Every year, Chanticleer has the holiday tradition of touring right after Thanksgiving before returning to the Bay Area for ‘A Chanticleer Christmas.’ With such a late Thanksgiving this time, they had a trip with concerts around New York, DC and Chicago. They had their first concert in Berkeley earlier this week, and ten concerts remain, in San Francisco, Petaluma, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Oakland, and Carmel. Music director William Fred Scott says this year they’ll be following these concerts with a recording session.
You can find more information about the remaining concerts at the Chanticleer website. And if you can’t make it to one of the live concerts, you can listen to Bay Area Mix this Sunday night at 8, to hear selections recorded just last weekend when they were performing on the Upper West Side of New York.
“It’s not like the narrative is going to change, and this year we’re going to have some really wild version of the story. It’s still the same story,” Scott says. “The story as far as we’re concerned is slightly different because when we’re finished with our Christmas concerts, we’re going to go to Skywalker Studios and make a CD. So, some of the repertoire on this concert is more familiar, perhaps, because we have done it two or three times in the last half a dozen years, because we want to put that on the CD.” Not that audiences will have any objections to hearing pieces again – one of the favorites each year is Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria. “Most of the time, every single piece on the concert is new except for the Biebl. This time there are some… I don’t want to say old chestnuts, because very little is really repeated, but there are some pieces, some Spanish pieces for instance that we have done in the past that we liked very much that we have put back on.” They’ve got selections that range from the Renaissance through Victorian England, American and European carols, Gospel christmas songs, as well as some contemporary works. “We have a piece by a Norwegian composer named Trond Kverno, which takes up the Corpus Christi theme which in essence says (as you find in some great literature and some great songs) that the same wood that was used for the manger was also used for the cross. There’s a kind of agitation and despair which is not sort of your typical Christmas sound. But it’s a magnificent carol, and it features Cortez Mitchell, who has a beautiful soprano solo in it.” Scott says each year, despite the pace of the season, the singers look forward to their home season of Christmas concerts. “It’s the most comfortable old shoe we have. And that we get to rearrange the sort of musical input from year to year keeps us on our toes, and keeps us wondering how we can continue to tell the story most beautifully, most musically, and most efficiently.”