CHICAGO A CAPPELLA
Jonathan Miller, a veteran of the Harwood Early Music Ensemble and a founding member of His Majestie’s Clerkes (now known as Bella Voce), started Chicago a Cappella in 1993. A musicologist whose dissertation was on 16th-century Italian choral literature, Miller built his nine-voice group’s eclectic repertoire around late Renaissance and early Baroque works from France and Germany as well as Italy; recently CAC has also made a specialty of the neglected choral traditions of Scandinavia. The group has further distinguished itself interpreting the contemporary or even brand-new music that’s often called for in the thematic programs Miller enjoys cooking up: a few years ago he presented “Music in the Life of Frank Lloyd Wright,” and this concert, loosely organized around the theme of love, is called “The Intimate a Cappella.” For its centerpiece he’s written a five-part song cycle, Kisses of Myrrh, set to text from the Song of Solomon. Palestrina adapted the same material in the 16th century, but he was constrained by the liturgical idiom of his time; his music communicates the poem’s piety and devotion, but little of its sensuality. I haven’t heard Miller’s version–it’ll be premiered Saturday–but it certainly doesn’t hold to a single idiom: one of the movements is based on an Anglican hymn, and Miller describes another, a tenor solo, as “heavy gospel blues meets Frankie Valli.” The five versatile singers performing here, including tenor Harold Brock and soprano Amy Conn, should be able to handle the distinct styles convincingly; Miller himself has a sturdy, eloquent bass that seems to deepen the emotion in any piece. Other highlights of the program are a selection of Nordic love songs and Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna. Emmylou Harris’s arrangement of “Calling My Children Home” and Gene Puerling’s version of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (made famous by the Manhattan Transfer) have also been included, surely as concessions to popular taste. Saturday, September 15, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; Sunday, September 30, 7:30 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston; Monday, October 1, 7:30 PM, Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. 773-755-1628.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ed Lausch.