The St. Charles Singers and choirmaster Jeffrey Hunt will conclude their 39th season in early June with a preview of the sacred choral music they’ll perform on a mid-month concert tour of historic churches in Spain and Portugal.
The mixed-voice chamber choir will perform its season-finale program, “Sing, My Soul,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3, 2023, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Avenue, Wheaton, Illinois, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 4, 2023, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue, St. Charles.
The program comprises more than a dozen artistically diverse a cappella religious works by American, Canadian, and European composers.
“The range of musical colors and textures the audience will hear is pretty amazing,” Hunt says.
The program includes Stacey Gibbs’ “Great God Almighty,” Paul Manz’s “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” Hildegard of Bingen’s “Karitas habundat” (Love abounds), Nancy Grundahl’s “Caritas Abundat,” and James MacMillan’s “Miserere” (Have mercy).
Also: David Azurza’s “Ave Virgo Sanctissima” (Hail, Holy Virgin), Herbert Howells’ “Regina Caeli” (Queen of Heaven), Andrew Balfour’s “Vision Chant,” Jake Runestad’s “Let My Love Be Heard,” Charles Ives’ “Psalm 100,” Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God), Morten Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux” (O Light Born), and Elaine Hagenberg’s “Alleluia.”
The choices were inspired, Hunt says, by the settings and acoustics of the churches where the choir will sing, as well as a desire to convey diverse cultural perspectives.
“These works take advantage of the reverberant, luminous sound of sacred spaces where choral voices fluidly and gracefully fill the hall,” Hunt says.
A spiritual journey
Five of the works are making their first appearances on a St. Charles Singers concert program.
Based on medieval chant, MacMillan’s “Miserere” is “a tour de force that demands tremendous concentration and vocal stamina from the singers,” Hunt says. Written in 2009, the Scottish composer’s Latin setting of Psalm 51 creates “contrasting moments of great drama and transcendental beauty.” A music critic for the Financial Times described the 10-minute masterwork as having “the flavor of a spiritual journey.”
Azurza is a contemporary composer from Spain’s Basque region. He is also a choirmaster, voice instructor, and countertenor who sings with vocal ensembles specializing in ancient and contemporary music. Hunt says Azurza’s “Ave Virgo Sanctissima” deserves a wider audience.
Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Runestad is an award-winning composer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His “Let My Love Be Heard” is a setting of the Alfred Noyes poem, “The Prayer.” Runestad says he feels honored that this piece “has helped to provide hope in the darkness of our world.”
A Canadian First Nations composer of Cree descent, Balfour incorporates an Indigenous chant style of singing in his “Vision Chant,” which also includes the Ojibway word for “journey.” The journey begins and ends with a melody sung by the sopranos. The work, with multiple parts for each choir section, has been described as “striking for both its stillness and its intensity.”
Though Ives is among the most revered American classical composers of the early 20th century, his settings of biblical Psalms are rarely heard. His jubilant “Psalm 100,” which includes the phrase “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” is scored for choir and bells. Seventeen choristers will ring handbells as well as sing, Hunt says.
Some pieces, Hunt says, are delicacies that haven’t been heard in the choir’s concerts for many years, including Lauridsen’s eerily beautiful “O Nata Lux,” English composer Howells’ “Regina Caeli” for double chorus, and Barber’s “Angus Dei.” It’s his own arrangement of his “Adagio for Strings” from 1936, one of the most popular classical compositions of all time.
The program has a Chicago connection in the late Paul Manz, longtime church music director and educator in the city. His 1953 motet, “E’en so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” is the most famous choral work by the noted composer for choir and organ.
Hunt has paired the “Karitas habundat” (Love abounds) by medieval German mystic and saint Von Bingen with Minneapolis composer Grundahl’s modern take on von Bingen’s original.
“Sing, My Soul” opens with Stacey Gibbs’ captivating arrangement of the traditional African American spiritual “Great God Almighty.”
The finale is Hagenberg’s “Alleluia,” written in 2020. It’s a joyous and rhythmic setting of a St. Augustine text that includes the lines “We shall see and we shall know. / We shall know and we shall love. “
The St. Charles singers will perform “Sing, My Soul” on tour June 14¬–21 in Saville, Carmona, Cádiz, and Córdoba, Spain; and Marvão and Lisbon, Portugal.
Tickets and information
Single-admission tickets to the St. Charles Singers’ “Sing, My Soul” concerts in Wheaton and St. Charles are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students. Group discounts are available.
Tickets and information are available at stcharlessingers.com or by calling 630-513-5272. Tickets are also available at Town House Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.
St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in the “Sing, My Soul” program include sopranos Christina Collins, Arlington Heights; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich and Mary Kunstman, Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; AnDréa James and Cynthia Spiegel, St. Charles; and Karen Rockett, West Chicago.
Alto voices are Valerie Bollero and Margaret Fox, Batavia; Kelly Grba, Bolingbrook; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; Chelsea King and Julie Popplewell, North Aurora; Rachel Taylor, Wheaton; and Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills.
The tenor section includes Christopher Jackson, Crystal Lake; Robert Campbell, DeKalb; Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, North Aurora; Nicholas Falco, Schaumburg; and David Hunt, Wayne.
Basses are Brandon Fox, Batavia; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Brian Jozwiak, Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Stephen Uhl, Glen Ellyn; Chris DiMarco, Naperville; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; and Aaron James, St. Charles.St. Michael Catholic Church
310 S. Wheaton Avenue
Wheaton, Illinois 60187