The St. Charles Singers, led by founder Jeffrey Hunt, will trace the legacy of medieval chant across the centuries at the chamber choir’s March “Echoes of Splendor” concerts in Wheaton and St. Charles, Illinois, which will also focus on female composers in recognition of Women’s History Month.
“The archetypal sounds of medieval chant will reverberate throughout these performances,” Hunt says. “It’s a musical thread connecting the sacred works we’ve chosen from the Middle Ages through the 21st century. All but one of the works, Gabriel Fauré’s singular and sublime Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48, were composed by women.”
“Echoes of Splendor” will open with Fauré’s Requiem, “a remarkable work of great serenity and beauty,” Hunt says.
The St. Charles Singers, accompanied by the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra, will perform the version for soloists, mixed-voice choir, organ, and instrumental chamber ensemble, edited by English composer and choirmaster John Rutter.
Chant-like elements include repeated notes sung by the baritone soloist in the Offertoire section.
The late French Romantic composer’s 30-minute work stands apart from other great Requiems, Hunt says, because of its “ethereal, sublime, and peaceful character.”
Archetypal sounds of medieval chant will also echo through the second half of the program, which features 20th and 21st century works by female composers Lili Boulanger, Nancy Grundahl, Jocelyn Hagen, Cecilia McDowall, Alice Parker, and Elaine Hagenberg, plus two pieces by Hildegard von Bingen, German medieval mystic, abbess, and saint: “Karitas habundat” (Love abounds) and “Laus Trinitatis” (Praise to the Trinity).
“It will be enchanting,” Hunt says.
Grundahl and Hagen composed modern takes on the von Bingen works, and their versions will be paired in concert with von Bingen’s originals. Grundahl is a highly esteemed Minneapolis-based composer, choirmaster, and singer. Hagen, another Twin Cities composer of wide renown, writes music praised as “dramatic and deeply moving” by the Minnesota Star Tribune.
Boulanger’s intimate “Pie Jesu” (Pious Jesus), scored for mezzo-soprano, string quartet, harp, and organ, will be sung by St. Charles Singers ensemble artist Margaret Fox. Hunt describes it as “an amazing piece, full of mystery, passion, and depth.” The precocious young French composer wrote this luminous work in 1918, shortly before her death at age 24 from chronic illness.
The choir will perform contemporary English composer McDowall’s setting of “O Oriens” (O Rising Sun), one of seven short prayers known as the Advent “O Antiphons.” Gramophone magazine says, “McDowall’s work has qualities that include a communicative gift that is very rare in modern music.”
Parker’s 1967 arrangement of “When I Can Read My Title Clear” paints a vision of the afterlife based on words and music from the early American “harp singing” tradition.
Hagenberg’s 2020 “Alleluia” is a joyous and rhythmic a cappella setting of a Saint Augustine text that includes the lines, “We shall see and we shall know. / We shall know and we shall love.” The Choral Journal says her music “soars with eloquence and ingenuity.”St. Michael Catholic Church
310 S. Wheaton Avenue
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
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