December 14, 2011
The Bay Area-based, Grammy Award-winning men's vocal ensemble Chanticleer has got the holiday formula down. The 12-member group packs churches all over the country at this time of year with its perfectly-honed mix of Medieval chant, traditional carols and gospel medleys spiced up with a few crunchy-harmonied postmodern compositions to keep the serious musses in the house happy.
Last night's lovely concert at Stanford's Memorial Church felt different to me in one respect, though: The ensemble's high voices (the voices that Chanticleer has become most famous for promoting over the years) weren't sounding like they usually sound. Unless the acoustics in the room were throwing my ears off, the altos and sopranos came across as being much more operatic than is customary. Instead of making a bell-like thread of pure sound which is boy chorister-esque in quality, the singers performed in a much fuller and more fruity fashion -- reminding me of David Daniels on one of his riper days.
The lineup at the top has changed recently -- Michael McNeil has been replaced by Kory Reid. Perhaps that explains the fuller sound. Or maybe it's something that the new artistic leaders for the season -- interim director Jace Wittig and guest director Dale Warland -- have specifically incited.
Either way it's pretty great. There's no reason for men to sound like boys.