A bright holiday tradition kicks off this festive season as George Mason University’s Center for the Arts presents A Chanticleer Christmas. Twelve men with the perfect voices for this jubilant time of year, Chanticleer is celebrating its 35th season of vocal performances. Performing a series of worldly historical carols to herald in the Christmas season, three sopranos, three altos, three tenors, and three baritone/bass bring blissful harmonies and melodies to your ears, often as soothing as a lullaby. The second act leaps into action with a few more modern yet still very traditional songs, such as “Good King Wenceslas” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” A resplendent concert for the refined aural pallet, this holiday offering is a delightful way to welcome Christmas.
Interim Music Director Jace Wittig provides harmonious synchronization among the dozen dandies, often allowing for that serene sound of many notes resonating from one voice. This happens throughout the performance and is one of the most stellar things about the concert; hearing a chord or chorus of notes all at once and having them sound as if one masterful voice were echoing them all throughout the space. Their inviting and mesmerizing sound submerges you into the sensations of the darkness and the light; the triumphs of Christmas and the babe that was born upon that sacred day.
As a performing unit the voices of the twelve men in Chanticleer waft like unearthly spirits that predate time, floating to the audience’s ear upon a wave of grandeur that awakens and stimulates the mind. The flawless harmonies ring through the celestial sounds of the melodies with rich angelic tones echoing in them, especially for the soprano singers.
During “Nesciens Mater” the ensemble voice drips the tears of Seraphim as they call to the heavens to announce the arrival of the savior born of the Virgin Mary in French. There are lighter and brighter moments of vanquished darkness during “Angelus Pastores Ait” where the song sways with a cheerful ease of the angel telling the shepherds that the son has been born. This particular number employs syncopation and complex rhythmic interplay between vocal parts and shakes things up at this point in the concert.
Alto soloist Cortez Mitchell, while featured frequently throughout the performance, shines like the wondrous star of Christmas Eve in “A Spotless Rose” his crystalline voice carrying the joviality of Christmas straight from the depths of his soul to the ears of the audience. Mitchell harmonizes with grace and refinement when singing duet and solo responses with Gregory Peebles. The pair cover the full range from the bottom of the alto to the top of the soprano, showcasing their talents fully in the “Star of Wonder Melody” segment.
The ever popular “Ave Maria” is performed with strong sounds of the baritones and bass (Eric Alatorre, Michael Axtell, and Matthew Knickman) driving the undertones so that the main melody can soar to light frothy peaks like the wispy clouds of the angels that wait above. The song contains angelic crescendos that bring it to an emotionally stimulating conclusion.
Tenor soloist Brian Hinman rings clear like Christmas morning church bells during “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and his sensuous voice belts with powerful emotion to translate the sheer joy of Christ’s birth. His forceful solo is rivaled only by Peeble’s soprano belt that truly hits the rafters in “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Alto soloist Adam Ward really shakes things up during “Christmas Medley.” The song features a blend of rhythm gospel and blues, letting these men show their dynamic range of musical style. Ward’s perfect solo to introduce this number livens up the crowd as this number draws the show to a close.
A brilliant and warmly inviting way to start the holiday season, this Christmas concert is one to catch if you can.
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.
A Chanticleer Christmas played its one-night engagement on Saturday November 24, 2012 at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts’ Concert Hall – on the Fairfax campus at the intersection of Braddock Road and Route 123, in Fairfax, VA. For further information on upcoming Chanticleer performances, visit their website.