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Saint Paul SundayFeatured Artist


An Orchestra of Voices

Chanticleer, the only full-time classical vocal ensemble in the United States, has developed a remarkable reputation over its 22-year history for its interpretation of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, and from gospel to venturesome new music. With its seamless blend of twelve male voices, ranging from countertenor to bass, Chanticleer has earned international renown as "an orchestra of voices." Named for the "clear-singing" rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer was founded in 1978 by tenor Louis Botto, who sang with the group until 1989 and served as its Artistic Director until his death in 1997.

Matthew Alber, Christopher Fritzsche, Jay White, soprano
Michael Lichtenauer, Cameron Paine, Philip Wilder, alto
Kevin Baum, Ti mKrol, David Munderloh, tenor
Eric Alatorre, Frank Albinder, Thomas Bold, baritone and bass
Craig Johnson, Artistic Director

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Musician Discography: Currently available releases

Selected Program Notes & Translations
Robert Young: There is no Rose of such virtue
Jan Sweelinck: Hodie Christus Natus est
Luca Marenzio: Qual Mormorio soave
John Tavener: The Lamb
Arvo Pärt: Magnificat
Franz Biebl: Ave Maria
David Willcocks (arr.): Quelle est cette odeur agréable?
Johann Abraham Peter Schultz (arr. Carolyn Jennings): O Come, Little Children
Gene Peurling (arr.): Deck the Halls
William Billings: A Virgin Unspotted
Joseph Jennings (arr.): O Jerusalem in the Morning

There is No Rose of Such Virtue, Robert Young (b. 1923)
Robert H. Young, a native of Santa Cruz, California, served for 30 years on the music faculty at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, until his retirement in 1993. His numerous choral compositions include this attractive setting of an anonymous 15th century English carol whose first line was originally spelled "Ther is no rose of swych vertu." The poem embodies a common medieval conceit of identifying the Virgin with a rose, and follows the old custom of mixing Latin with the vernacular. (The original medieval carol is recorded on Chanticleer's Christmas CD, Our Heart's Joy.) Robert Young's setting, composed in 1980, evokes an antique mood with chant-like unison passages alternating with more contemporary harmonizations. The voices fade off into a final diminuendo on the word Transeamus to depict the shepherd's departure in response to the choir of angels: "Let us go now even unto Bethlehem ...". (Luke 2:15).

There is no rose of such virtue
as is the rose that bare Jesu;

For in this rose contained was
heaven and earth in little space.
Res miranda [Wondrous thing!]

By that rose we may well see
that He is God in persons three,
Pari forma [Of the same form!]

The angels sung the shepherds to
"Gloria in excelsis Deo!"
Gaudeamus. [Let us rejoice!]

Leave we all this worldly mirth,
and follow we this joyful birth,
Transeamus. [Let us go!]

Hodie Christus natus est, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)
One of the greatest organists and teachers of the early-seventeenth century, Jan Sweelinck was a native of the Netherlands who spent his career in the service of the Calvinist church. One of his masterworks, however, is a collection of motets from the Catholic tradition entitled Cantiones sacrae (1619), which includes the piece Hodie Christus natus est. It is perhaps Sweelinck's most popular work, an exuberant five-part outpouring of contrapuntal interplay. Each section begins with the distinctive tenor outcry of Hodie, and culminates in a skillful jumble of overlapping calls of Noe (Noel) or Alleluia.

Hodie Christus natus est. Noe, noe.
Hodie Salvator apparuit, Alleluia.
Hodie in terra canunt angeli
Lætantur archangeli. Noe, Noe.
Hodie exultant iusti, dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo, Alleluia. Noe!
Today Christ is born. Noel, Noel!
Today the Savior has appeared, Alleluia!
Today the angels sing on earth.
Today archangels rejoice. Noel, Noel!
Today the righteous leap up, saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, Alleluia! Noel!"

Qual mormorio soave, Luca Marenzio (1553/4-1599)
Luca Marenzio has been dubbed "The Palestrina of the Madrigal" because his voluminous body of Italian madrigals rivaled his fellow Roman's vast output of sacred music. In Marenzio's hands, the madrigal reached its culmination as a musical form in the 1580s. He was highly regarded for his skill at text-painting-translating verbal imagery into musical symbolism. This expertise at "madrigalisms" is evident in Qual mormorio soave, one of Marenzio's five-voiced Madrigali spirituali (works in the madrigal style, and in the vernacular, but on sacred texts rather than love poems) published in 1584. In this poetic evocation of the Annunciation, paraphrasing the Magnificat, musical text-painting abounds: steady, well-voiced chords for dolce armonia ("sweet harmony"); unchanging harmony for quietasi ("is stilled"), a chain of dissonances for grave ("severe"). Contrapuntal skill is combined with exacting attention to textual expression.

Qual mormorio soave
d'aura tra frond'e fronde
dolce armonia d'angelico concento
quietasi l'aere e'l vento
che tace il tutto e risonar sol, Ave,
s'ode e soa risponde candida verginella:
"Ecco, Signor, l'ancella
a cui per obbedir nulla gli è grave."
O che lieta novella,
perce pargeggi ormai la terra e'l cielo
Vergine Donna a Dio di se fà velo.
That soft murmuring
of the breeze from leaf to leaf,
sweet harmony of angelic concord,
the air and the wind are stilled;
all is silent, and there resounds only "Ave."
It is heard, and only the spotless virgin responds:
"Behold, my Lord, the handmaiden for whom,
in obedience, there is nothing too severe."
O what glad news! for henceforth
you make equal the heavens and the earth.
A Virgin Lady has concealed God within herself.

The Lamb, John Tavener (b. 1944)
John Tavener was educated at the Royal Academy of Music (1961-65), and came to public attention with the premieres of his cantatas, Cain and Abel, and The Whale, the latter of which gained sufficient attention to be recorded by the Beatles' label, Apple Records. Drawn to mystic and religious subjects, the composer evinces a highly individual style derived from such wide-ranging influences as the music of Olivier Messiaen and chants of the Russian Orthodox Church, of which he became a member in 1978. The poem "The Lamb" appeared in William Blake's Songs of Innocence (1789), throughout which the figure of the lamb takes on the key symbolism of innocence. Tavener has set the poem with an appropriate technique of utter simplicity, employing a one-bar melodic phrase repeated almost in litany-fashion, while continually varying the harmonic and chordal textures. The effect is one of both tenderness and transcendence.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, & bid thee feed
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
      Little lamb, who made thee?
      Dost thou know who made thee?
      Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
      Little Lamb, I'll tell thee.
He is called by the name
for he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, & he is mild,
He became a little child.
I, a child, & thou, a lamb,
We are called by his name.
      Little Lamb, God bless thee!
      Little Lamb, God bless thee!

Magnificat, Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)
Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has gained prominence in the last decade as one of the most gifted choral composers of the late twentieth-century. His later works display a fascination with the polyphonic forms of early music, and with ideas drawn from Gregorian chant. His setting of the Magnificat was composed in 1989 for the choir of the restored Berlin Cathedral. Chant-like melodies are paired with a soprano "drone" - an insistently repeated note that adds a captivating and hypnotically reverential mood. Very simple, archaic-sounding, chordal passages intervene, with a purposeful avoidance of emotional text-painting, except for the phrase et et divites dimisit inanes ("and the rich he has sent empty away"), where interrupted chords create a scattered effect. (Read more about Arvo Pärt.)

Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Et exsultavit
spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo. Quia respexit
humilitatem ancillæ suæ; ecce enim ex hoc
beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:
et sanctum nomen eius. Et misericordia eius a
progenie in progenies timentibus cum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo:
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit portentes de sede,
et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis:
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatrus misericordiæ suæ.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in sæcula.
My soul magnifies the Lord. And my spirit rejoices
in God, my Saviour. For He has considered
the lowliness of His servant: behold, from
henceforth all generations will call me Blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things to me,
and Holy is His name. And His mercy is, from
generation to generation, upon those who fear Him.
He has showed strength with His arm;
He has scattered those with pride in their hearts.
He has deposed the mighty from their seats,
and exalted the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant, Israel,
having remembered of His mercy.
As it was told to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for generations.

Ave Maria, Franz Biebl (b. 1906)
Franz Biebl was born on September 1, 1906 in Oberpfalz, Germany. He studied music at the Humanistic Gymnasium in Amberg, and received Master of Music degrees in composition and choral conducting at the State Music Academy in Munich. As a composer, Biebl has striven to expand the German folk-song repertoire, composing hundreds of arrangements for all types of choral groups. Biebl's setting of Ave Maria exploits the richly sonorous possibilities of double-chorus writing for men's voices. The familiar Ave Maria antiphon is sung by four-part choir answered by a three-part group of soloists. This forms a refrain separating the three chanted versicles of the Angelus, a devotional text commemorating the Incarnation, resulting in a satisfying blend of medieval melodic sound and warm, multi-voiced choral harmonies. When Chanticleer visited Biebl's home of Munich, Germany in the spring of 1997, the singers invited him to attend their concert so he could hear them sing his Ave Maria in a live performance. After Chanticleer finished his piece, Biebl was so moved that he came up on stage and shook the hand of each and every singer.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ
et concepit de Spiritu sancto.
The angel of the Lord made his annunciation to Mary
and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum;
benedicta tu in muleribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui Jesus.

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Maria dixit: Ecce ancilla Domini;
fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Mary said: Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.
Let it be unto me according to Thy word.

Et verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

Sancta Maria, mater Dei ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis,
nunc et in hora mortis nostræ, Amen.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners.
Holy Mary, pray for us,
now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

Quelle est cette odeur agréable? (arr. David Willcocks)
Quelle est cette odeur agréable?
Bergers, qui ravit tous nos sens?
S'exhale-t-il rien de semblable
Au milieu des fleurs du printemps?
What is this pleasant fragrance,
Shepherds, that robs all our senses?
That resembles no other fragrance found
in fields of Spring flowers?

Mais quelle éclatante lumière
Dans la nuit vient frapper les yeux!
L'astre du jour, dans sa carrière,
Fût-il jamais si radieux?

But what brilliant light
comes to strike our eyes in the night?
The day-start, in its course,
never is so bright!

À Bethléem, dans une crèche,
Il vient de vous naître un Sauveur;
Allons, que rien ne vous empêche
D'adorer votre Rédempteur.

In Bethlehem, in a manger,
a Savior is born unto you.
Let us go! let nothing impede you
from worshipping your Redeemer.

Dieu tout-puissant, gloire éternelle
Vous soit redue jusqu'aux cieux;
Que la paix soit universelle,
Que la grâce abonde en tous lieux.

God all-powerful, eternal glory
You are given, even to the Heavens;
that peace may become universal,
that grace may abound everywhere.

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