Vocal chamber ensemble Chanticleer returns with eclectic repetoire


Kaitlyn Finchler
Staff Writer

Forty-five years in the making, the sounds of blended voices from a San Francisco-based group will permeate the Amphitheater with an evolution of reinspired Renaissance pieces and other eclectic tunes. 

With a plethora of musical genres in tow, Chanticleer will perform at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amp. Made up of 12 “incredibly talented” singers and musicians, the male vocal chamber ensemble will perform a “little bit of everything,” said Tim Keeler, music facilitator for the group.

“This program is called ‘Labyrinth,’ ” he said. “(The performance) takes us through a bunch of different styles and a bunch of different challenges.”

Keeler said the show starts with earlier music, including some Renaissance polyphony — where two or more independent melodic lines create complex harmonic and rhythmic textures — as well as pieces written specifically for the group.

“We have included one of my favorite pieces on the program by American composer Trevor Weston, called ‘O Daedalus, Fly Away Home,’ ” he said, which is based on a poem by Robert Hayden — the first Black writer to hold the position now known as U.S. Poet Laureate.

The second half of the program includes an arrangement of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and jazz standard “Stormy Weather,” ending with bluegrass spiritual numbers.

The ensemble also has the “privilege” of offering a music education program, Singing in the Schools, where vocalists visit Bay Area schools and “set an example” for singers of all ages, Keeler said.

“(We want) to show them what’s possible and to help them out along their journey,” Keeler said. “So one day, they could do what we do, or something similar.”

Chanticleer is “always trying to push themselves,” he said, adding that the group makes an effort to commission new pieces every year to explore new ways of singing, harmonies and voices.

“While music has changed over the centuries, people are more or less the same,” he said. “Five hundred years ago, people still got scared, they still got excited (and) they still fell in love.”

Keeler said people feel these things centuries later because “they’re still the same thing.” Combining the different styles of repertoire in one program is “less about exploring genres and more about exploring people.”

Since its founding in 1978, the ensemble has released 25 albums, including Our American Journey, which “celebrates the music of America” with tracks ranging from sacred motets by 17th-century Mexican composers to shape-note hymns and newly commissioned works on American themes.

The 12 singers are: tenors Andy Van Allsburg, Matthew Mazzola and Vineel Garisa Mahal; countertenors Cortez Mitchell, Gerrod Pagenkopf, Kory Reid, Bradley Sharpe, Logain Shields and Adam Ward; bass Andy Berry, baritone Matthew Knickman, and bass and baritone Zachary Burgess.

Keeler said his role is behind the scenes.

“I’m … choosing repertoire and facilitating the music-making experience,” he said, “so when it gets to the stage, those 12 singers can bring everything they’ve got.”


The author Kaitlyn Finchler

Kaitlyn Finchler is a journalism and public relations graduate from Kent State University as of May. This will be her second summer at Chautauqua where she will cover literary arts, serving previously as the Interfaith Lecture Series preview reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading, cooking or flipping between “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl.” She’s most excited to see how many times she can slip the word “plethora” into her stories before Sara makes her stop again.