Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Bye Come see our new site and blog

We've launched our new site, complete with a new blog.
We will no longer be posting here at

Visit us @

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Suavity and Transparence" says the SF Chron!!!!

Here are the first two reviews from last week's "Out of this World" concerts here in the Bay Area. You can still see it - or come again - tonight, Tuesday in Walnut Creek, Thursday in Santa Clara, Saturday in Napa, Sunday in Sacramento.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ben Johns talks about Lab Choir in week 3

First, we thought you'd like to know which schools are represented in Lab Choir 2, our after school honors choir:
Albany High School (2)
Berkeley High School
Maybeck High School (Berkeley)
Oakland Technical High School
Jewish Community High School of the Bay (SF)
Lick-Wilmerding High School (SF)
Lowell High School (SF)
Davis Sr. High School (3)
UC Davis (2)
Santa Rosa High School
Santa Rosa Jr. College
Tamalpais High School
Athenian School (Danville)
Mt. Diablo High School
Concord High School (3)

The theme for this weekend's rehearsal was "Ensemble." Now that most of the notes are learned, the LAB singers were able to turn their attention to some of the finer elements of singing together. Again, I'm struck by how quickly these students can focus and adapt to singing with each other when a week has passed without contact. Whether it's tackling new vocal techniques (like harmonic overtone singing for Past Life Melodies), learning about homophony, imitation, and inversion, or attending to business (like voting on T-shirt designs), the LAB Choir plows forward with enthusiasm.  At this halfway point we're on track for our debut at the Youth Choral Festival on Oct. 22...there's more work and fun ahead!

Break times are good too!

BIG DAY: our new website/digital storefront goes live TONIGHT - MONDAY!

At the second San Francisco performance of "Out of this World" yesterday, Matt talked to the audience about all the music we'll be making newly available on our new digital storefront by the end of this month. Singles of "Cells Planets," "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud" and "Sirens," whole live concerts from the past ( Comedian Harmonists from 2002, this year's National Youth Choral Festival and "For Thy Soul's Salvation,"just for starters) our brand new Christmas recording "A Chanticleer Christmas" AND pretty soon, highlights from "Out of this World." Come visit us on the website; your patronage of our store is a big help to us!

Many longtime faithful fans were there yesterday, plus some students from School of the Arts, AND our youngest fan, Sophia, who's been coming for a few years since her father joined our Board of Trustees. We're always interested to hear her opinions. She's been deeply devoted to Eric

and now there's also Casey (soloist in "Cells Planets") who was a member of the Duke's Men at Yale University, just like Sophia's father.

There are four Bay Area performances of "Out of this World" this week - tomorrow at the Lesher Center at Walnut Creek, Thursday at the Mission Santa Clara, Saturday at the Napa Opera House,
and Sunday at St. Francis of Assissi in Sacramento. Hope to see you.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September: sad news to report

We have learned of the passing of Ken Fitch, counter tenor in the ensemble from 1988-1997.  Eric Alatorre remembers him:

Ken was an alum of the Royal College in London, sang with the Boston Camerata in Boston, eventually with Frank Albinder in that group. He came to Chanticleer as one of its core members when there was still a split between the 8 full time members who toured and the 4 part time who did local / large projects and recording. He was hired as a soprano, but really loved the top alto chair, and was a soloist in several Chanticleer recordings including: Virgen Sancta, A un niƱo llorando, Stormy Weather, and other solos in the Mexican Baroque series we did. He was a loyal husband, loving father, and not only a good friend, but a patient mentor to me in my early years. He lived in Napa, and commuted to SF every day, but always was a cheerful and upbeat despite being away from his family so much. He was also the last person in the group who had a child, until last year. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and his son John.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September: Lab Choir 2 has its 5th session.

With this, its 5th rehearsal, Lab Choir 2 is amazingly already half way through its 10 week session. As you can see on the board, there's an ambitious list of repertoire to work on, voting on the t-shirt design, getting to know each other on breaks, and talking with Ben about a lot of different topics. Today - among many other things- they practiced making overtones in "Past Life Melodies" which is on our program at the moment, and had a discussion led by Ben about all the characteristics required of a good ensemble member.

September: "Out of this World" in San Francisco

Here's our little corner of San Francisco - the San Francisco Conservatory a block away from our office and rehearsal facilities and diagonally across the street from the Chinese restaurant where we are to be found on many many of our lunch hours. San Francisco performances are always attended by a lot of long-time fans who never hesitate to tell us what they think. They were extremely enthusiastic about everything - even those who think that Guerrero and/or Monteverdi madrigals are the highlight of the program enjoyed our crossover into indie rock with "Cells Planets," and really appreciated both of Mason Bates' pieces. We were glad to see students in the audience from Palo Alto High School and School of the Arts and their choir director Todd Wedge (former Chanticleer tenor.) Both those schools participated in our National Youth Choral Festival last March.

Mason and his wife seemed to be happy about it - which makes us happy too!We repeat the program Sunday the l9th at 5pm, same place.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September: "Out of this World" in Carmel

We're lucky to be Californians while we're in Chanticleer (Eric's almost always the only native Californian) and to perform often in the glorious California missions.  They have an intimate and profound atmosphere, and fantastic acoustics.  Last night we were in Carmel whose acoustics are really out of this world. It's the only mission with an arched roof(see below.) There are always a lot of extremely loyal audience members who have been coming to Chanticleer concerts here for decades. Presenting our new programs under these conditions before we take them out on the road is such a luxury. We have many miles to go before we get back to Carmel for Christmas on December 21, but we already look forward to it.

This was our second performance of "Out of this World." Our two new pieces "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud" by Mason Bates, and "Cells Planets" by Erika LLoyd (this latter something really new and different in our repertoire) seemed to resonate just as much with the Carmel audience as with San Luis Obispo the night before. We're really pleased about that. Our new digital storefront will launch on Monday -soon you will be able to download both new pieces - and, we hope, much of this concert!

Behind the scenes in Carmel: one of the mission bells from inside the bell tower, and the famous crooked window (which is over the front door) from the inside. Nobody really knows why it was made crooked, although they do know that it was intentional, and could have had to do with refraining from pride by refraining from perfection.

Matt Oltman on last night's performance in San Luis Obispo

The performance last night in San Luis Obispo was exciting in so many ways.  First, it is always a thrill to perform a new program in front of an audience for the first time. After so many weeks of rehearsal, seeing the audience react and respond to our artistic goals is incredibly rewarding.  Second, last night saw the world premiere of two songs.  This gives the entire ensemble and audience the sense of having been part of a "creation"; a singular moment in time which can only ever be shared by the people in that room (but which we will recreate at every performance this season, I promise!).  Third, even though last night was only the first of some 80 performances we will do of this program, we can all feel a certain sense of accomplishment.  From here on out, our efforts can be directed towards polishing and honing, but the product, the work of art which is the "program", has been brought to living, breathing life.  All we have to do now is care for it and share it with all of you! (Oh yeah, and start learning the Christmas program! There is always another little program bun in the oven!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September: our first 'Out of this World'- 2 world premieres

Here we go! A few hundred miles south to San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast for the first concert of this season - Casey and Michael Axtell's debut and the beginning of Eric's third decade with Chanticleer. We performed the world premieres of Mason Bates' "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud" and Vince Peterson's arrangement of Erika Lloyd's "Cells Planets" both of which seemed to be huge hits. It was a beautiful sunny day, we love the mission at San Luis Obispo and the friendly crowd we see there. There were lots of students from Paso Robles and Templeton High Schools, both of which had participated in our National Youth Choral Festival last March. As always, it's good to have their energy. It's an interesting program, we think, lots of big pieces around our theme of what is beyond our planet and beyond our knowledge. Our new Christmas CD started moving off the table, and downloads of highlights from this program will be available soon. Back up Highway 101 to Carmel tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September: Ben reports on the Lab Choir's first weekend

Hi - Ben Johns, Chanticleer Education Director, here - that's me in the red shirt on the left of Lab Choir 2's first official portrait, taken on Labor Day. We're off to a really good start! It's amazing to me that 22 students from 14 different schools can gel so quickly as an ensemble.

We spent a large portion of the weekend in sectional rehearsals securing notes and cultivating our new identity as LAB 2. Dominick's [Ben's assistant, a composition student at U.C. Davis] role as Assistant Director has been key to the success so far - much time saved by running concurrent sectionals. When we weren't musicking, we were either eating, studying, or playing hacky sack. Already we're producing moments of real music, beyond printed notes....better than the average high school choir. It's especially exciting to realize that this is the beginning. I haven't been this exhilarated and exhausted since the National Festival in March.

The energy and enthusiasm we all share is great. We've been bounding up and down the stairwell for sectionals to save the elevator from breaking. That's one way to stay vocally warmed up and exercise breathing muscles!

Here's a clip of us singing the end of Kirke Mechem's "Island in Space"-pretty awesome for four days work!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Out of this World! Cells Planets

We did finish recording Vince Peterson's arrangement of Erika Lloyd's "Cells Planets" on Saturday night. Casey Breves sings the solo (originally sung by Erika Lloyd with Little Grey Girlfriend). If you're coming to our concert series in the Bay Area next week, you'll be the first to hear it on our program "Out of this World" exploring what may be beyond our earth. Here's Erika's website, with a shout out for us.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chanticleer's busy Labor Day

Although we have a day off between finishing the recording and re-starting rehearsals for our new season (starting on the 14th in San Luis Obispo,) there's lots going on today in Chanticleer-land.
Matt Oltman and Don Fraser are at Fantasy Studios finishing up the editing of our new recordings. Lab Choir 2 is at our place in San Francisco, under the direction of Education Director Ben Johns, hard at work for the fourth consecutive day! They're continuing working on Sumaya and Mechem, with lots of sectionals, punctuated by some listening breaks, for example hearing Jessye Norman singing Schubert's Ave Maria. Pretty much the first time for everybody hearing that great voice.

Above, Lab Choir 2 at our office and rehearsal space. Below, Matt Oltman at Fantasy Studios, working on editing Erika Lloyd's "Cells Planets," the last piece we recorded last week. You can hear it soon!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chanticleer's Labor Day Weekend

We're busy on several fronts this Labor Day Weekend. Lab Choir 2 convened for its second day which included sectionals on Kirke Mechem's "Island in Space" (which is on Chanticleer's touring program this year,) rhythm exercises invented by Ben on the spot, reading of a Gregorian Chant under the direction of Dominic (Ben's assistant and a singer in LC2, who also knows about Chant) further work on Ave Regina Coelorum by Sumaya which was started yesterday....and so on.
More tomorrow and Monday - we have to hand it to those young singers - they're working hard!!!

We were on the other side of the Bay at Fantasy Studio in Berkeley, continuing our work on Steven Sametz' pieces which required a fair amount of experimentation with our standing positions in relation to the mics. Tonight we'll do Erika Lloyd's "Cells Planets" and that's it for the studio for a while.

On our dinner break we took a look at our new web-site, which will be going up very soon and which will make it REALLY easy for you to download music - like these new tracks we're making right now!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

September: LAB Choir 2 starts today!

Today was the first session this season of Chanticleer's Louis A. Botto (LAB) Choir, led by our Education Director Ben Johns. We started this idea last year, forming the 14 member LAB CHOIR 1 to be the instrument for the sessions we offered the choir directors at our National Youth Choral Festival. For LAB CHOIR 2, Ben recruited 22 student singers from as far away as Santa Rosa and Davis, as well as San Francisco and the East Bay. It's something we've thought about for a long time; it's seems a natural for us to expand upon our education offerings with an after-school program for advanced singers. There will be three 10 week sessions during the school year, each with up to 25 singers participating. They will rehearse every weekend and perform at schools, community centers -wherever they decide to. They will be able to attend a Chanticleer rehearsal, have input from the ensemble, and see Chanticleer in concert. LAB CHOIR 2 will make its debut at our Youth Choral Festival on October 22. We thank all the parents who came along for their support, and we thank the singers for singing up for this adventure with Chanticleer.

Today's session started with a sing through of "Sure on this shining night" - as Ben said -"just to see what we sound like." The four hour session included a greeting from Chanticleer Board Chair Kathy Henschel, warm-ups, snacks, discussing the schedule, getting acquainted, and a lot of serious singing. They'll meet again Saturday and Sunday and Monday for 6 hours each day. That's the whole Labor Day weekend - a very impressive commitment! We can't wait to hear them.

September: back in the dark with Sametz and Sandstrom

Our two day break in the recording schedule coincided with a heat wave in San Francisco - that was excellent! We haven't worn shorts in San Francisco all summer until now. We are thinking of our East Coast friends who are as we write in the path of Hurricane Earl. Hope it goes OK!!! While you're waiting for Earl we're back at Fantasy Studio in Berkeley to continue on with the Sandstrom piece, as well as starting on Steven Sametz' two new songs to texts by Walt Whitman. Steven's beautiful pieces "I have had Singing" and "In time of.." have been a big part of Chanticleer's life forever; we looking forward to adding these new ones. Because of the amazing Convolution system, we are doing Steven's pieces in the acoustic of the Chorus Room of the Netherlands Radio - a legendary recording space. You can choose from 40-50 actual acoustics, making it possible to record all styles of music in the same studio here at Fantasy.

Casey, like Michael Axtell, is recording with Chanticleer before ever singing a concert with Chanticleer. This often happens as August is sometimes a good time in the schedule to record, even though new singers have just joined us. Casey says it's really instructive to be able to hear back what we've done and his part in it. We all got to hear the results of our pretty arduous sessions on Mason Bates' "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud" - very very cool!

One more day tomorrow to do Vince Peterson's arrangement of Erica Lloyd's "Cells Planets" (Chanticleer meets indie pop) then we'll be back to rehearsal for our first concerts of the season here in the Bay Area.
Back at our place in San Francisco, the LAB Choir will have its first rehearsal tonight.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

August: engineering in the Magellanic Cloud

Today we're having a break from recording. Meanwhile however in the studio Producer Don Fraser, engineer Chris Manning, and Matt are mastering what we did over the last few days - Mason Bates' "Observer in the Magellanic Cloud" and Jan Sandstrom's "And the Word became flesh."

Here's a 'picture' of Mason's piece on Chris' monitor...

And here's a picture of the real Magellanic Cloud, imagined by Mason to house satellites capable of picking up ancient sounds. It's a great piece which we will sing oh, 50 or so times, in the course of this season. You should come hear it live, but if not, you can hear it on recording (downloadable from our site pretty soon.)