Dec 23, 2014

Let It Snow

Are you a fan of the a cappella ensemble Chanticleer? If you enjoy male a cappella groups, Chanticleer is hopefully at or near the top of your list. This group of twelve phenomenally talented singers was founded back in 1978 – so they’ve been at this for a while. Of course, the personnel roster has completely changed over the more than three decades they’ve been performing. There are none of the original twelve left now, but I still am in disbelief that my brother Howard was invited by the group’s founding Music Director Louis Botto to join. . . and Howard refused! Aaahhh! Well, we must all make our own personal decisions about the direction our lives will take.

In 2007 under their brilliant Music Director at that time, Joseph Jennings, they decided to make a different kind of Christmas recording, featuring a jazz orchestra. Let It Snow is breathtaking in every way. The customary “close harmony” of a cappella groups is certainly everywhere in evidence. But for you Stravinsky fans out there, there’s even a quote from his Rite of Spring! It’s pretty hard to miss, but why not see how pleasantly the Stravinsky meshes with Jingle Bells in the number called Holiday Cheer, A Suite of Seasonal Songs.

I guarantee that unless you already know this performance, you’ve never listened to Let It Snow sound like this. It gives me goose bumps to just write about it, listening to it in my head.

I’m wondering as I write: “Have you personally sung in a choir, yourself?” If you have, than you can appreciate how unbelievably demanding it is to perform at the artistic level that Chanticleer achieves. To sing the challenging chords, the harmonies they employ that “in tune” is utterly remarkable. The precision of their ensemble is the result of more rehearsal than most of us have ever endured, and I’m including professional orchestral musicians like myself in this statement. The only classical instrumentalists who can truly appreciate what Chanticleer achieves vocally are the members of professional chamber music ensembles – string quartets and the like. Most professional symphony orchestras never rehearse enough to reach this level of “togetherness” or “tightness” as we say. Did I mention how clearly the members of Chanticleer enunciate every consonant and vowel that they sing? The words come out as clearly as those on printed pages.

If you’d like to watch a short YouTube video on the making of Let It Snow, go for this look behind the scenes. If you’d just like a good, sentimental cry during this holiday, sit down and listen to them sing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. And please do have yourself a Merry Christmas. . . while you’re at it!

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