Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy holidays

Leaving you with two images from Christmas on the Mission Road here in California...this is a Christmas tree in the Mission at Carmel.

.. and here is the Mission Santa Clara where we sang two concerts on Tuesday which were beyond sold out - in fact we had to turn away about 30 people for the second performance. We're sorry about that! The Missions provide us with very special moments on our Christmas tour; this was no exception. We went on to the Performing Arts Center in Livermore ( which we like a lot- the was our first time doing Christmas there) last night for the last of a long and wonderful series of 26 concerts this year! From the audience response and the notes you write us, we think that we've achieved our Christmas wish to offer you moments of serenity and joy this season.
Today, Christmas Eve, we're spreading out to all the places we come from - home for the holidays to see friends and family, recover from the Christmas tour, and rest up for what's to come in the New Year - hoping that those of us heading towards the MidWest won't be too much delayed today.

We look forward to seeing you in January- we'll be back on the 11th to prepare for our winter European tour to France, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic ( the Rudolfinum for the first time!), Slovakia ( for the first time!), Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Latvia, and Germany. It will be quite a ride, so join us. Meantime, best wishes for great holiday season. from all of us here at Chanticleer. Thanks for following along with us, and for your terrific support.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December: Christmas on the Mission Road

If you have seen our DVD documentary "Mission Road: the Journey Back" - in which we perform mission era music in 7 of California's beautiful missions- you saw them baking hot and sundrenched and surrounded by gorgeous flowers. We perform often in the Missions and we get to see them in all their seasons. While we know life was not at all easy in the mission period even in good weather, we can imagine how hard it must have been in the winter.

We drove south 125 miles to Carmel in increasingly heavy rain and fog, to find the mission under dark and moody skies. Not long after warmup started a magnificent rainbow seemed to take in the whole Monterey Peninsula. Intermittent rain in Carmel challenges our staff, who must set up the will-call table and the CD table out in the courtyard, man them during the two concerts, and move them quickly in case of a downpour.

The Carmel Mission with its perfect acoustic and lovely decorations at this time of year epitomizes the moment of peace and serenity which we hope to give all our Christmas audiences. Walking slowly across the courtyard from the mission gate to the church door, coming out of the dark and rain into the little mission church makes people as receptive and calm as they could possibly be.

We were all snug inside, unaware of an exceptionally heavy downpour which caused the staff to have to evacuate the tables. By the time we came out, it was a perfect moist winter evening again.

Carmel is a long-standing Chanticleer tradition, and much of our audience goes back a way with us. Almost always these two sold out concerts happen very close to Christmas which makes them even more meaningful to people - so they tell us as they walk back out into the night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December: The Mondavi Center, Davis

Two traditions seem to have sprung up around our Christmas concert at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis, 75 miles East of San Francisco. l. there's the highest quotient of red clothing to look at out, and 2. it rains.

Concert hall acoustics differ more one from the other than church acoustics do, so in the warmup we re-adapt to this particular one, which is very different from Disney, a couple of days ago. Concert halls - even those - or sometimes especially those- which provide a great experience for the audience- are often tricky if you're standing on the stage.

An almost capacity audience enjoyed the show a lot! The Mondavi Center is a great place to come to a concert and we love to see our audiences so comfortable, with such lovely lobbies for intermission drinks and CD purchasing and such magnificent bathrooms! The latter have a positive impact on the number of CD's we sell at Davis, we firmly believe!

As always, a warm reception in the lobby afterwards. Cortez greeted his fans in front of a TV playing our new DVD "Fireside Christmas with Chanticleer" - our first 'yule log.' We hope that lots of you are enjoying it as Christmas approaches.

Next we go out of the concert hall and into the intimacy of the missions at Carmel and Santa Clara which always have lovely Christmas decorations.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

December: back to St. Ignatius

The second concert in St. Ignatius, jammed to the rafters (and St. Ignatius does have rafters...) with Board members, friends, fans, and family, including any number of people who have never missed a Chanticleer Christmas concert, ever!!

By our second concert St. Ignatius has done some decorating, adding to our sense that Christmas is very near!

As you know, it's Eric's 20th season with Chanticleer, which means that this is his 20th Christmas tour, which means that he has sung the Biebl Ave Maria - in his estimation- at least 500 times! This achievement and his awesome solo in the gospel section of this year's program are very much appreciated by our audiences - he gets mobbed by old and young and everything in between, including here about 70 choral singers from Napa High School where the choral program is very active.

December: Southern California

Los Angeles welcomed us with what passes for winter weather down there - 70+ degrees and sunny- for our annual appearance in the LA Phil's Christmas celebration at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Disney and the LA Phil have gone from fascinating Finn to hot Venezuelan since we were last there!

It takes us a bit to re-accustom ourselves to the concert hall acoustic of Walt Disney Concert Hall, after all the ecclesiastical acoustics we've been in. The audience was wildly enthusiastic, and we did two encores (usually we do one) - Biebl Ave Maria and Silent Night.

We always have a reception in the elegant Founders Room of Disney Hall after our performance. An eclectic group shows up
-our board member Peggy Skornia, and ex-board member Ed Costello, Los Angeles area fans, former generations of Chanticleer men -like Michael Lichtenauer who now lives in LA, pictured here with Gabe..
and surprise guest Troy Thomas, the writer for the Jay Leno Show who wrote the bit about us - here pictured with Matt and the authors of our response to Jay, Brian and Ben.

And, there was a Santa sighting!!! Blizzardy East Coast ( we're sorry, but we know you wanted a White Christmas!!) do you know where Santa is right now!!!! He's having some R & R off the Southern California coast ( who wouldn't) gathering strength for his trip into your snow on Thursday night! (We think he also earns a little extra cash in these hard times as a surfing instructor...)
Look on the right, you can just see him....

Santa has to wait for waves, just like everyone else..

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December: Berkeley

The day started out in San Francisco at our ABC affiliate, KGO, where we sang "Angels we have heard on high" in between various cooking segments and such on a live afternoon program called "View from the Bay." You can see the food waiting in the foreground!
Here's us on View from the Bay. We were thrilled to be asked onto this popular program and very glad that it wasn't at 6 in the morning like TODAY. Thanks to our Board members Janet Cluff, Peggy Skornia, and Matthew Hobbs for coming along for moral support.

Due to the rainstorm still not appearing and some kind of miracle over the Bay Bridge, we arrived in Berkeley in time for a chicken and rice plate...In 24 hours we went from squeaky clean country Christmas in Petaluma to gritty urban Christmas in Berkeley.

In the Bay Area we produce our own concerts, and our crack staff is ready for most emergencies. In this case we had picked Berkeley to have videographer Yiqing Luo do a little documentary about a Chanticleer Christmas, because it's always just SO pretty here with the lovely lighted trees on stage, and all. This year, we arrived and found this, which didn't quite fill anybody's bill.

So we pirated a tree and a wreath in from elsewhere in the building and did our best to create some atmosphere.

The atmosphere was created by our very friendly and wonderful sell-out audience. It's a beautiful acoustic at First Congregational and we always enjoy its warmth and intimacy. By this time tomorrow, we'll be basking in the grandeur of Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

December: Petaluma

You have to feel Christmasy in the historic town of Petaluma, 40 miles to the north of us, in Sonoma County! Lighting your house is a big deal, and people light themselves ( those light-up necklaces) for the concert. Some of them anyway. Others wear Santa hats! Very festive. We always like to bring you a little glimpse...

We do two concerts, at 6pm and 8.30 in the wonderful acoustic of St. Vincent- a place Chanticleer has performed practically since time began. Lots of longtime fans come, and local alumni of our Chanticleer in Sonoma biannual summer workshop, which took place last summer. There was supposed to be 4" of rain, but that storm veered off somewhere else and left us a perfect cold and dry Sonoma Christmas evening.

We're slightly more than half way along our Christmas journey, and everyone's well - with a little help from their neti-pots and as much sleep as possible. Tomorrow we'll be on View from the Bay in San Francisco, followed by a concert at First Congregational Church in Berkeley.

Monday, December 14, 2009

December: Christmas past, a San Francisco story

Just a thought prompted by the media frenzy about people singing in choruses.... ( isn't it amazing!)

In 1876 David Webster Loring moved from Boston to San Francisco. At the urgent request of his friends he organized the Loring Club to develop the better knowledge of male chorus music. 60 men were regular participants, 250 were associates. He also organized the Schumann Club with the same aim for music for female voices. While the Schumann Club did not survive him, the Loring Club went on until 1990. The Club was even called upon from time to time to swell the ranks of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.

We mention this for two reasons: first, because we received a call to the effect that the Loring Club's music could no longer be housed at the Paramount Theater Library in Oakland, asking whether would we like to look at it. Of course would! Ben Johns, our Education Director and self-described geek who would love this kind of project, went over and went through 5 of the 65 boxes of music, finding some pieces that should be performed.

Then - with the media frenzy about choral singing between Glee, and Lifetime's movie Christmas Choir, and the NBC choir competition just this week (hey, perhaps it's not a coincidence that Jay Leno - on the same network-took us on last week) you would think that singing in choruses had just been invented!!!!

We're totally thrilled about all the publicity for the music we love, but we're also proud to be part of a very long tradition, which, in San Francisco, goes back to the creation of the Loring Club in l876. Probably before - we bet that those gold miners sang - long before reality TV was there to catch it! We doff our hats to the gents in San Francisco who went before us- no doubt in white tie and tails- and who probably gave a great Christmas concert. We hope we're around for over a hundred years too!

The Paramount Theater where Ben went on his rescue mission to the Loring Club's music...

December: St. Ignatius, San Francisco

Last night we had our first performance of two ( the next one's on Saturday) in St. Ignatius in San Francisco. We call it ' the mother ship' because this is the acoustic which our Music Director has in mind when programming the concert. Also because there are so many fans, friends, donors, board members, and family who come to these performances in our home city.

Like everyone everywhere so far, they loved the Distler "Es ist ein ros" and the Cui "Magnificat," as well as our Aztec and Spanish numbers with Dylan on the tambourine. Of course it wouldn't be Christmas without the Biebl Ave Maria and we wouldn't escape with our lives if it weren't on the program.

A much appreciated standing ovation.

In these next ten days before Christmas Eve we've got a whirlwind of miles to go and songs to sing. Always fun looking out and seeing your Christmas outfits; we wonder if the crowd at the Mondavi Center in Davis next Sunday will hold up its record as the audience with the most Christmas sweaters per capita.
People ask us what we do to keep ourselves and our voices together at this time of year - other than being inspired by the season and the moment of peace we hope to give our audiences. Nothing mysterious, lots of sleep and lots of Purell are the keys to it, along with some individual eccentricities we'll fill you in on as we go along..Petaluma on Tuesday - sounds as if there's going to be a big winter storm that day!

December: some news from China

It seems that our appearances in China in May were award-winning!  We are honored.  As you may know, we are going back to China in June for EXPO 2010 -representing the city of San Francisco.  There's a trip for patrons to go along!

Here's the news:
 "Sounds of America - Chanticleer's Concert" was awarded as "Chorus Concert of the Year", and "From the Path of Beauty - Chanticleer and The Shanghai Quartet" as the "Innovation Concert of the Year", by Classical Elites Shanghai Season 2008-2009. Classical Elites Shanghai is held by KLASSIKOM and the magazine Music Lover. 


December: another review

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December: a nice review

While our Christmas concerts have everything to do with giving our audience a moment of serenity as the season begins, and nothing to do with getting reviewed - a nice one is always appreciated...

December: Oakland, Cathedral of Christ the Light

The Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland opened in September of 2008; this was our first time there. It's a spectacular building in downtown Oakland designed by Craig Hartman of Skidmore Owings Merrill in San Francisco - he designed the new International Terminal at SFO, also a building very much about light. Word of the acoustics has been spreading - it really is a wonderful large wood-filled room, with nothing but sight-lines- a welcoming haven for the audience. The concert was sold out - over 1000 people. We'd like to sing here often and hope it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Christmas was a great way to start.
A few photos of our warm up and performance to give you an idea of the interior of the Cathedral.

The view from where we stood.

It was our friend Frederica Von Stade who first mentioned the Cathedral to us as a place we should perform. She came with some of 'her' kids from St. Martin de Porres ( we went and sang for them in September) who reciprocated with cookies which Dylan and Jace happily received.

Tomorrow night, the first of two concerts this week in 'the mother ship' as St. Ignatius in San Francisco is known to us. The rest of the week includes performances in Petaluma, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Davis. On Wednesday afternoon we'll be on TV in the Bay Area on "View from the Bay."

For those of you following the Jay Leno saga - unfortunately, but predictably, it was too late for us to be booked on the show to deliver our answer to Jay in person, but the video of it will circulate! (see below.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

December: Back to you, Jay Leno

After our Stanford concert last night, we taped a little video to respond to Jay Leno's monologue of Wed night ( scroll down for the link) masterminded by Brian and Ben who wrote the lyrics....
here it is:

December: Memorial Church, Stanford

It was a dark and rainy and VERY cold night in Palo Alto for our annual visit to Stanford's stunning Memorial Church, but the church was full to the rafters of people who come every year.

This is the performance ( because it's the first one possible after we get back to the Bay Area) at which we tape for broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. Our Christmas concert is broadcast in approximately 225 public radio stations nationwide, so you will find it somewhere near you in a few days. Matt and Don Ososke, who has recorded us for broadcast since the beginning of Chanticleer, confer during the warmup.

We never fail to be impressed by the beauty of Memorial Church, built early in the last century. It suffered a lot of damage in the Loma Prieta earthquake in l989 but was beautifully restored, thanks in large part to the contributions of the many people who had been married there!.