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Acapella group Chanticleer impresses at Chemeketa Auditorium

Many things can be said of Chanticleer, the San Francisco based male choir, but one cannot deny that they know how to put on a good show. During their continent-spanning tour, Chanticleer stopped and performed at Chemeketa as part of The Acclaimed Artist Series on April 16th. The theme of the show was Then and There, Here and Now, their latest album celebrating forty years of Chanticleer. The album is part a wistful look into their past and part a glance into the future of the ensemble.

The auditorium in Bldg. 6 was completely filled, mostly with retiree-aged boomers. There was a sense of tense anticipation while we waited for the show to begin. I had listened to Then and There, Here and Now to get a sense of what to expect, but the album, while entertaining, could not compare to the live performance.

Haunting vocal harmonies and beautiful melodies carried the diverse setlist. They started off with a musical look into the Renaissance. Despite being incredibly impressive, I couldn’t help but feel like a bored child at church. They performed “Gaude Gloriosa”, an ode to The Virgin Mary and the 17th century “O, Clap Your Hands”, an anthem praising God; but with no instrumental accompaniment, there was nothing to keep my interest during these songs.

The setting changed from a Sunday church sermon to poetry whispered on a winter’s day. “Whispers”, a striking number based on Walt Whitman’s Whispers of Heavenly Death left me with chills. The snow melted when Chanticleer channeled springtime with Io Son la Primavera, an Italian song of spring, but with a ting of sorrow, reminding one that spring won’t last forever. Mosquitos buzzed in the Southern midsummer evening when Chanticleer performed Gershwin’s Summertime, an endearing jazz standard. My interest was at an all-time high: Chanticleer did Summertime justice and then some.

A trilogy of German language songs was a welcome surprise to the already impressive repertoire with Von den Türen, Traumlicht, and Fröhlich im Maien. For whatever reason, German is known as a harsh language in our popular culture. Whether that’s true or not, the choir used German as a channel for beautiful harmony and memorable melodies. I was quite enthralled by how flawless their German sounded, I almost believed that they were based out of Berlin, not San Francisco.

My personal highlight was Creole Love Call. Chanticleer has a serious sound- they are the kind of group that sounds best echoing in an old cathedral- but I was pleasantly surprised that they could also be funny. Creole Love Call had the choir imitating a New Orleans style big band with just their mouths. It was amazing how spot on their impressions of brass instruments were. The hall was in hysterics.  

The show had moments of beauty that tapped into that magic feeling where time almost stops flowing and watching is the only thing you can do. However brief, there were also times where I was completely bored to tears by the lack of diversity in some of the music. Overall, Chanticleer put on a fantastic show and if vocal music is up your alley, then I recommend putting on one of their albums and disappearing into their wonderful vocal pieces.

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