New Classical Tracks: Chanticleer celebratesby Julie Amacher, Minnesota Public Radio
The men's chorus Chanticleer has made several acclaimed Christmas recordings. Their newest, just released, tips the hat toward pop music, gospel, and jazz.
St. Paul, Minn. — With three Christmas recordings to their credit, Chanticleer wanted to shake things up a bit on their latest holiday offering.
"Let it Snow" is an eclectic collection of jazzy, gospel and classical arrangements of several popular holiday favorites. The songs may be traditional, but the new arrangements make them sparkle.
The recording opens with Clare Fischer's swinging arrangement of the disc's title song. If I didn't know better, I'd think Chanticleer had transformed into the jazz ensemble Manhattan Transfer. The Chanticleer Holiday Orchestra is topnotch, smoothly shifting through key signature and tempo changes.
Music Director Joseph Jennings is responsible for several arrangements on "Let it Snow," including Adolphe Adam's O Holy Night. Tenor Matthew Oltman takes the solo on the first verse, adding just the right amount of vibrato. The ensemble unites in a rich choral sound for the second verse. Suddenly, soloist and ensemble split, turning this familiar carol into a powerful gospel hymn.
The crystal clear soprano voices soar above the ensemble on Sweeter Still. Chanticleer sings this secular holiday carol very tenderly, and with great feeling.
The piece was written by composer Eric William Barnum. Barnum was the 2003 winner of the Chanticleer Composer Competition for the song, She Walks in Beauty. He's currently the director of the Maverick Men's Ensemble at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Chanticleer popularized Franz Biebl's Ave Maria, but on this recording, they feature a gorgeous arrangement of Schubert's Ave Maria.
The first three minutes feature a gentle harp solo floating over the undulating orchestra. When the ensemble finally enters, they do so with quiet reverence.
The final holiday medley on this recording will find you hitting the repeat button on your CD player. Arrangers Buryl Red and Joseph Joubert blend a bit of Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Handel, and hints of the "Jaws" sound track by John Williams to pull off this holiday delight.
I especially love the way The Twelve Days of Christmas is interwoven throughout this very memorable medley.
"Let it Snow" is filled with spirited new arrangements that give new life to some familiar carols.
As Chanticleer celebrates its 30th anniversary year, you may think you've heard everything they have to offer. This new holiday collection proves that just isn't so.