Jeff Hunt Remarks: Candlelight Carols 2018

Candlelight Carols:  Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 in St. Charles, Dec. 1 in Chicago

Balancing Yuletide Favorites with Less-Familiar Fare to Please our Listeners

ST CHARLES, Ill., Oct. 3, 2018 — The St. Charles Singers have announced details of their 35th annual Candlelight Carols program, the holiday tradition which launched the choir’s career in 1984.

            The 2018 Christmas program, to be presented in St. Charles, Ill., and Chicago, will feature world premieres of two seasonal songs written for the St. Charles Singers by Illinois composers, along with  “engaging arrangements of Christmas classics, some of them new to our repertoire,” says Jeffrey Hunt, founder and music director of the professional chamber choir.

            The mixed-voice choir of 30-plus singers will present Candlelight Carols at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles; 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 1, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago; and 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 2, at Baker Church in St. Charles.

‘A Delight and a Challenge’

            “Programming our Christmas concerts is always a great delight and also a challenge,” Hunt says. “Our audiences include serious choral music lovers who expect to hear our highly trained and experienced singers perform virtuosic works and arrangements.” The ensemble includes many who are also voice teachers, choirmasters, and choral directors. Some sing in other top-ranked Chicago vocal ensembles and as soloists in concert and opera productions.

            Concertgoers can be happily nostalgic and “giddy with anticipation” of the Christmas season, Hunt observes. Others are dealing with emotional difficulties and need music that will lift their spirits, especially during the darkest month of the year. “A great many nonmusical, outside influences come into play in planning Candlelight Carols.”

Focusing on the Human Voice

            In staging Candlelight Carols, Hunt eschews multimedia elements such as videos, theatrical lighting, and other special effects. “Some music groups do that very effectively, and I applaud them for that, Hunt says.

            “For us, it’s always about focusing on the human voice and the music to stir the imagination,” he says.

            During rehearsals, Hunt experiments with the spatial placements of singers and choir sections on stage and elsewhere in the sanctuary for sonic perspectives that enhance the scores. Sometimes this means bringing the choristers closer to the audience, even deploying them around the perimeter of the hall for a surround-sound experience.

Holiday Fare, Fresh and Familiar

            Among the concert’s world premieres will be northern Illinois composer Andrew Bruhn’s “I Sing the Birth Was Born Tonight,” an unaccompanied choral setting of a text by English Renaissance poet and playwright Ben Jonson. Winner of the 2017 Illinois American Choral Directors Association Composition Contest, Bruhn is also active as a choral director and trumpeter. He earned a Master of Sacred Music degree in choral conducting from Luther Seminary and St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., and an undergraduate degree in trumpet performance from Wheaton College. While in Minnesota, he sang and recorded with the group Magnum Chorum.

            Also receiving its first-hearing will be Nathaniel Adams’s Lux Brumalis (“Wint’ry Light), comprising four jazz-influenced songs for choir and piano, commissioned by the St. Charles Singers. Adams, who wrote the words and music, will accompany the choir at the piano. A native of St. Charles, Ill., and the St. Charles’ Singers’ composer in residence, Adams lives and works as a choral composer, arranger, singer, and pianist in New York. The Manhattan Chorale commissioned Adams’s He Came All So Still for their performance at Avery Fischer Hall at Lincoln Center. The St. Thomas Choir of Men and Boys commissioned  a setting of the Anglican responses and have used them in the liturgy multiple times since their premiere in January of 2016.  Among other works, Adams wrote Love is Patient, a setting of Corinthians 13:4-18 written for mixed-voice choir and acclaimed soprano Sylvia McNair.

            This season’s Candlelight Carols will include pieces the St. Charles Singers have never performed before: Jonathan Dove’s “Ring out, Wild Bells” for choir and piano; Paul Halley’s “Angelus Ad Virginem” for choir and organ, Ola Gjeilo’s “Wintertide” for unaccompanied choir, David Willcocks’s choir and organ arrangement of “Sussex Carol,” and Susan LaBarr’s “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came” for unaccompanied choir.

            Audiences also will hear favorites from past seasons: Halley’s jazz-influenced “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Bob Chilcott’s “Shepherd’s Carol,” Willcocks’s “Silent Night,” Paul Christiansen’s “Oh How Beautiful the Sky,” Carolyn Jennings’s “Fum, Fum, Fum,” Robert Shaw’s “Angels We Have Heard on High,” Tomás Luis de Victoria’s “O Magnum Mysterium,” John Rutter’s “What Sweeter Music,” Arvo  Pärt’s “Magnificat,” and Elizabeth Poston’s “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.”

Tickets and Information

            Single tickets for Candlelight Carols are $35 adult general admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.

            Tickets and general information about the St. Charles Singers are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at Townhouse 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. Group discounts are available.

St. Charles Singers

            Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. The mixed-voice choir launched in St. Charles in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers. ClassicsToday.com calls the ensemble “one of North America’s outstanding choirs,” citing “charisma and top-notch musicianship” that “bring character and excitement to each piece.” Chicago Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein described the ensemble as “splendidly disciplined, beautifully responsive” and proclaimed, “Chamber chorus singing doesn’t get much better than this.”