Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life on the road in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland

For more candid pictures of the ensemble on the road, you can go over to our Facebook page at

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three World Premieres!

The five performances of the concert are now over. It was great to see audiences loving the new music - they were moved by the profundity of the anti-war statements in Shawn's piece - particularly as they are expressed in the Lullaby section. Some left humming the jazzy Quechua movement of Mason's "Sirens." . Having Mason and Shawn there to present their pieces and then to talk about them afterwards made for a really enjoyable evening. We'll be streaming it on Chanticleer Radio ( home page) so you can hear it too.

Reviews are in from Chloe Veltman, Joshua Kosman ( SF Chron), Georgia Rowe, Paul Hertelendy: Rowe's review is entitled "Beauty and Danger, In Song." Veltman says " I was tossed from shore to shore by Chanticleer's performance. The linguistic capabilities of the group are astounding. I didn't hear a vowel out of place..." Joshua Kosman begins by remarking "... there's an alluring piquancy in Chanticleer's new commissioning project, "Composers Our Age." read the reviews in their entirety by clicking on comments below.

We'll leave in a few days for concerts in North Carolina, Maryland, Richmond and Connecticut, including a Youth Choral Festival in Darien, Connecticut on the 31st. We'll let you know how it goes!

Shawn and Mason before the concert in Berkeley. We sang for the first time in public "No Matter" by Tarik O'Regan (who couldn't be present,) "The Garden of Paradise" by Shawn Crouch, and "Sirens" by Mason Bates. Chanticleer has a long history of adding to the choral repertoire through commissioning and performing new music; when we turned 30 last year we decided to find a new generation of composers for us, and here they are.

Before we sang "The Garden of Paradise," Shawn described how he came to write the piece to texts by Rumi and the anti-war poet Brian Turner, and read some of the poetry.

Perhaps in part because of Shawn's prior remarks, the audience followed the texts attentively
( but of course they do that in Berkeley) and rewarded us warmly.

Mason talked about being a choir boy in Virginia and his fascination with the Book of Matthew "Fisherman of men" text and how they played into his writing "Sirens."

Clearly the audience liked the five very different movements of Mason's piece a lot.
After it was finished, many of them accepted our invitation to stay. Shawn and Matt talked about some of the musical devices and intentions in "The Garden of Paradise," and we sang a section again to illustrate.

Before repeating a bit of "Sirens" we talked about Mason's search for siren music and how he came to find a piece in Quechua.
Everyone went home happy, including, we hope, the numerous music critics who were present, and representatives of the Gerbode and Hewlett Foundations which helped us put on this program! It was great that they were there. The good thing for us, now, having done it once, is that we do it four more times this week. Tomorrow night in Santa Clara, then in San Francisco Friday Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Getting there!

We continue preparing three pieces we have commissioned for their world premieres next week in the Bay Area: Mason Bates' "Sirens," Shawn Crouch's "The Garden of Paradise," and Tarik O'Regan's "No Matter."

Today - Friday- trying out the new acoustical shell in the concert hall of the San Francisco Conservatory where we'll sing three performances next week. We'll also do it in Berkeley and Santa Clara.

As the music gets to be more comfortable and we work out the kinks and figure out how to make the text understood as well as possible, we can concentrate on creating the atmosphere Shawn wants in "The Garden of Paradise." He talked to us again today about the soldier who may be forced to kill to survive and how particular notes and word colorings are meant to convey his spiritual dilemma. Brian Turner - the ex soldier/poet who wrote the words - can't be here, but we hope he can hear it soon.

Back to our own rehearsal hall to sing Tarik O'Regan's "No Matter" (text by Samuel Beckett) again. The harmonies are close and fascinating. And it's very high for the upper voices. Tarik isn't able to be with us - too bad, the sopranos would like to have met him in person!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Countdown to 3 world premieres

Thursday - the moment when what the composer has heard in his head meets what we have brought to life so far.
Shawn began by telling us that what inspired him to write about the war in Iraq was his brother's imminent departure
for a third tour of duty there, and his brother's profound concern about taking lives.
Gabe thought " Yesterday's rehearsal with both Shawn Crouch and Mason Bates was inspiring and nerve-wracking, while truly completing the picture of both pieces for me..." Read Gabe's full post, as well as a message from Shawn, by clicking on Comments, below.

We get to working on Shawn's piece. We ask our questions and he elaborates.

Mason Bates arrives from across the bay in Berkeley.

Shawn sits in as we begin working with Mason on "Sirens." It's about the seductive power of sirens - an idea which lends itself to some original vocal effects. In addition to singing in four languages - English, German, Greek and Quechua, we also play egg shakers.

A very intense afternoon. Both composers seem pretty pleased. Tomorrow we'll go over to the concert hall and try
singing them through from start to finish. Pretty soon we'll have the final ingredient - an audience.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wednesday - same as yesterday because that's what this kind of painstaking mental process looks like!

We come to a complete stop over an question of syllabification in Greek in Mason's piece. Tomorrow we can ask him what he wanted.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Next Wednesday night we will be singing three major new compositions for the first time. We're working very hard! Among other things there are the following languages to pronounce properly: English, German, Greek, Italian, Quechua and Arabic. Matt sought out a young Iraqi student who works in his neighborhood to try out pronouncing the several Arab words in Shawn Crouch's piece, one of which is habib, which means love. Now we know. Shawn's piece is to texts written by a former soldier in the Iraq war, interspersed with poetry by Rumi.

Rehearsal is a collaborative process...

On Thursday Shawn Crouch and Mason Bates will come to rehearsal to hear their music for the first time. That's always an awesome moment - for composer and singers alike. We're looking forward to hearing their thoughts and getting their help.

Monday, March 9, 2009

They're ready for us in Shanghai!

This will be an amazing spring! We will soon present three world premieres ( Bates, Crouch, O'Regan) here in the Bay Area, then tour in Connecticut, New York,Georgia and Minnesota, including Youth Choral Festivals in Darien, Connecticut and Hibbing Minnesota. China seems a long way away, but in two months we'll be there, and, as you can see, they're ready for us!