News Column

Chanticleer brings "orchestra of voices" to South High

May 2, 2014

By Jodi Rogstad, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne

May 02--A journey through the history of music and love, all packaged in rich layers of 12 human voices.

Put another way, the theme of Chanticleer's Tuesday evening Cheyenne performance is "She Said/He Said," said Curt Hancock, who directs operations and touring for the all-male, world class a cappella group. It's not so much about conflict as it is love.

"I think there's been a ton of repertoire to glorify the Virgin Mary, to glorify women, to glorify love throughout the ages," he said in a recent phone interview.

The program, which will be performed at Cheyenne'sSouth High, will start off in the 11th century with a Hildegard von Bingen piece, working its way through music history all the way to a piece written just nine months ago, he said.

But in ancient music, listeners will find composers put much more attention into melody, Hancock said.

"Up until the 1900s, much more focus was placed on melody than it is on modern music," he said. "Especially in the music of Hildegard von Bingen, there are these melismatic, soaring melodies that are very beautiful, very different from modern jazz or pop music."

And for many centuries, the mother of Christ was "more or less the end of the conversation about the feminine ideal," he said. "(Bingen) is writing 'Oh, beautiful branch, Oh, true branch,' which is an allegory for Mary allowing Christ to spring forth."

Chanticleer, named for the clear-singing rooster in Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales," was founded in 1978 in San Francisco, its founder wanting to expose more listeners to Renaissance music.

While the group still devotes about a quarter of its performance time to music from this period, it quickly branched out, eventually touching the jazz and pop genres.

This works well for the dozen singers of Chanticleer, whose lineup has changed over the years, but is still "mostly guys in their 20s and 30s who have an eclectic taste in their music because they are informed by modern times," Hancock said.

"There's a lot of wonderful music to explore," he said. "It is often the case with singers they are asked to specialize. I don't think we should limit ourselves to one style."

The group, sometimes billed as "an orchestra of voices" performs without any other instruments or a conductor. But over the years, the term "a cappella" conveys something a bit different from what Chanticleer does. You would expect, say, an a cappella group at a high school or college, to be performing their own adaptations of popular music.

"One of the great things and interesting things done in college a cappella groups is they make their own arrangements and create the arrangements orally. They'll listen to recording and improvise till they build it themselves," Hancock said.

But Chanticleer, even when it ventures into popular music, sounds different. They do some improvising, but most arrangements are written specifically for the group.

"Ours is based on classical music techniques," he said. "I would say ours is a bit more complex in terms of the part-writing, but rhythmically, the effect is no different, as well as the emotions and energy of the piece."

If you go

What: Chanticleer, a Grammy-winning, world-famous a cappella group has a stop in Cheyenne. The concert is being presented by the Laramie County Community College Foundation.

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Auditorium of Cheyenne'sSouth High, 1213 W. Allison Road

Tickets: $15. Call 778-1285 or visit


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Source: Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY)

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