Chanticleer Gives World Premiere Performances of Five-Composer Mass Cycle

Classic Arts News   Chanticleer Gives World Premiere Performances of Five-Composer Mass Cycle
Chanticleer, the Grammy Award-winning male vocal ensemble, gives the world premiere performances of a newly-commissioned Mass cycle beginning tonight in the Temple of Dendur at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And on Earth, Peace — A Chanticleer Mass is a collaborative work featuring contributions by five contemporary composers — Douglas J. Cuomo, Kamran Ince, Michael McGlynn, Ivan Moody and Shulamit Ran — who have each written individual mass movements for the acclaimed 12-male vocal ensemble. The cycle is a celebration of the life of Chanticleer's founder, Louis I. Botto (1951-1997) on the tenth anniversary of his death, and each of the individual movements, funded by a particular donor, is dedicated to the memory of an eminent San Franciscan.

This new work is a significant milestone in Chanticleer's long history of commissioning new music and supporting contemporary composers. All but one of the five composers involved are writing for Chanticleer for the first time; all were selected for the project by Chanticleer's music director, Joseph Jennings. Although the movements of the Mass are designed to be performed together, they will also be individually programmable, providing the ensemble with a wealth of new repertoire for its touring programs for years to come.

Television, film and theatre composer Douglas J. Cuomo wrote the Kyrie, dedicated by Ann Moller Caen to the memory of beloved San Francisco newspaper columnist Herb Caen. Cuomo, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and works and resides in New York City, counts jazz, pop, classical and world music as influences. His wide-ranging achievements run the gamut from the theme to HBO's Sex & the City and PBS's Now with Bill Moyers to his staged oratorio based on the story of the Bhagavad-Gita, Arjuna's Dilemma.

Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince has written the Gloria section to a Sufi text; the movement is dedicated by the Bob Ross Foundation to the memory of San Francisco city supervisor and gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Ince has been hailed by The Los Angeles Times as "that rare composer able to sound connected with modern music and yet still seem exotic." His work has been performed and recorded by major orchestras and ensembles around the world. Ince comments: "I think Chanticleer's new Mass is a very special project of great promise that brings together our diverse spiritual world. Especially appealing to me is that I could use a different language or text of an alternative religious/spiritual nature appropriate to my movement." His selection was a text by the 13th-century Sufi mystic Rumi.

Dublin-born Michael McGlynn, who cites traditional music and medieval music as his chief inspirations, has contributed the Agnus Dei, dedicated by Stephen K. Cassidy to the memory of Frances Cassidy. McGlynn is best known as the composer for and director of the highly successful Irish choir An‹na, which he founded in 1987. His works have been widely recorded by An‹na and performed by hundreds of choirs worldwide, including Chanticleer (his composition D‹lamšn appears on the Chanticleer albums Portrait and Wondrous Love, and his arrangement of "Stille Nacht" can be heard on the group's Christmas with Dawn Upshaw). McGlynn observes, "What fascinates me is the fragmentary nature of this composition; each movement carries a universal human truth, and the combination of all these elements with the beautiful sound of Chanticleer is surely a project that every composer would wish to participate in."

London-born Ivan Moody has written the Sanctus, which is dedicated by Mrs. Alfred S. Wilsey to the memory of her late husband. Moody has been profoundly influenced by Eastern Liturgical chant and the spirituality of the Orthodox Church. He observes, "Collaborative Masses have been written before in musical history, but when the idea comes from Chanticleer, it is impossible to resist. I have been an admirer of Chanticleer ever since their earliest recordings: I admire their blend, their energy, their sensitivity, the breadth of their repertoire. I have chosen the Sanctus, which is a text common to both East and West."

Israeli-born Shulamit Ran, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of works performed by the world's major orchestras and opera companies, has written the Credo/Ani Ma'amin, dedicated by Gerald B. Rosenstein and Patrick J. Summers to the memory of James H. Schwabacher, Jr. Ran's Credo, featuring Latin, English and Hebrew text, includes quotations from the Ani Ma-amin ("I believe" in Hebrew), part of Maimonides's Thirteen Principles of the Faith. Ran explains: "When I was approached by Joseph Jennings with the idea of composing a portion of a Mass intended to be a collaborative effort by a group of composers, the first thing I heard myself say was 'you know, of course, that I am Jewish, and the only way for me to take on this project is if I am allowed to bring my own personal, Jewish perspective into this.' I was immediately assured by Joe that I would be free to pursue this in my own way and, in fact, I [found] myself looking forward with much anticipation to what will, no doubt, prove to be a most unusual, interesting challenge."

Following tonight's world premiere of And on Earth, Peace, Chanticleer will perform the work six times in California over the next two months:

May 18 - Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
May 19 - St. Joseph's Cathedral Basilica, San Jose
May 20 - First Congregational Church, Berkeley
June 1 - Carmel Mission, Carmel
June 2 - Congregation Sherith Israel, San Francisco
June 3 - St. Francis Church, Sacramento

Meanwhile, the group embarks on an East Coast-West Coast tour beginning tomorrow, performing their program "Love's Messengers" in the following cities:

April 27 - State Theater, Ithaca, NY
April 29 - Great Bridge Presbyterian Church, Chesapeake, VA
April 30 - First Presbyterian Church, Virginia Beach, VA
May 3 - Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
May 4 - Holy Cross Church, Santa Cruz, CA
May 6 - Van Duzer Auditorium, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Warner Classics will issue the world-premiere recording of And on Earth, Peace — A Chanticleer Mass in early May.

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