Chanticleer coming to Centre Nov. 7

October 31, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

Danville concert patrons can expect a mixture of languages when popular a cappella male ensemble Chanticleer performs Nov. 7. The Grammy Award-winning group is known for its interpretation of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to "venturesome new music."

The program with which Chanticleer currently is touring is titled Women, Saintly and Otherwise, and is a compilation of music written by or about women. Joseph Jennings, the group's musical director, is the "brainchild behind this program," said Matthew Oltman, assistant music director for Chanticleer. He is in his sixth season as a tenor with the group.

Women, Saintly and Otherwise contains songs ranging from tributes to the Virgin Mary to bawdy drinking songs, Oltman noted. The concert explores the "glories of the female muse, friend, lover, artist, ruler and temptress."

"There are two pieces at the end of the first half," Oltman said of Women, Saintly and Otherwise. "The first is a a romantic, lush piece, a kind that you just don't hear that often. Then we segue directly to the song that was sung at Diana's (the late Princess of Wales) funeral, Song for Athene. It's a very moving part of the first half, so we give (the audience) the intermission to collect themselves. We've had good audience reaction from this."


Second half more folksy, upbeat

Oltman said the second half of the program is more folksy and upbeat. Overall, the program will include Latin, Russian, Italian, French, and, most likely, Korean folk songs.

"We'll see how the Danville audience reacts to it," Oltman noted.

When Oltman speaks of audience reaction, it is obvious it is an important part of the group's dynamic.

"We have a tradition of going out and meeting the audience after the show," he explained. "The audience feedback is really essential in getting a sense of what the concert did, or didn't do, for people. Hopefully we're connecting with them.

"That's part of the reason we come out and talk to them. Audiences tend to love the variety in the program and it's OK to say you liked this but did not like that. We love it when people come for jazz or gospel ... (and) they walk away thinking that the Russian piece was really good, too. We do a lot of educating, but even at our concerts it happens. A die-hard classical person ends up loving a good jazz arrangement."

Oltman added that to work in Chanticleer successfully, a singer actually has to be able to switch gears smoothly, not just give that impression.

"There have been times that we've had musical conversations onstage during a performance," he explained. "With the time that we spend together, you get to know each other so well, so it's easy to tell when someone needs some help during a performance. We give it to each other."

The touring component of Chanticleer's repertoire requires more than just rehearsal time. The programs not only require the singers to practice and to immerse themselves in the music, but also to learn the diction of the chosen programs - a different challenge from learning a language, Oltman said.

"In my six years, we've sung everything from Chinese to Korean, Swahili to Cuban to Finnish," Oltman said with a laugh. "And we've even done Renaissance Basque, which looks like some ridiculous mixture of Spanish and French.

"My French diction is excellent but has gotten me into trouble. If we're in France, they mistake me for being French. ... They start speaking it quickly and I'm lost."

Oltman agreed he could be described as passionate about his career, but within Chanticleer, he is not alone in that feeling, he said.

"We have had the most heated discussions about the smallest of things because we have that much invested in the music. The sincerity is what makes the performance. We try to convey sincerity through the music, no matter what language or style."

Oltman personally feels most comfortable singing Renaissance music.

"However, one of the things we look for is a variety of backgrounds so that, within the group, everyone would give a different answer to the question 'What do you most like to sing?' I have colleagues that can teach me and help me, and I can return it back to them. We feed off of one another due to our differences.

"You have to check the ego at the door. There is no place that the ego gets bashed faster than at a Chanticleer rehearsal."

Oltman said occasionally he gets a request to perform on the spot - on a plane, for example. His response to these requests?

"I ask them, 'What do you do for a living? Oh, you're an accountant. Do you do taxes on a plane for people you just met?'"

Two jobs

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