American choir Chanticleer's concert Over the Moon this past Sunday 4 October sealed their reputation as one of the world's premier vocal ensembles. Their beautifully clear vocals blended beautifully, singing and moving in perfect synchronisation, performing intricate pieces and arrangements from a broad variety of styles.
Their varied programme had segments in pieces by standard classical composers, renaissance works, cycles by contemporary American composers, arrangements of classic pop and jazz songs and American spirituals.
Standout numbers for me include Elgar's There is Sweet Music, with its contrapunctal lines on the word 'sweet', and Conditor alme siderum by Orlando di Lasso with its varied and wide-ranging vocal textures, alternating the clearer voices of sopranos and tenors between the boomier basses and altos, and alternating soloists with tutti voices.
Nico Muhly's Three Moon Songs, specially commissioned for Chanticleer this year and premiered on this tour, was a captivating setof songs based on Albert Giraud's poem Pierrot Lunaire (the same text of the Shoenberg's cycle but translated into English), its complex rhythms and harmonies were vividly brought to life by the men. Not to be outdone, Fellow American DJ/composer Mason Bates's Observer in the Clouds juxtaposes what sounds like beeps from a digital metronome against a tapestry of sounds, most noticeably sustained low notes from basses drawn out like a double bass.
The pop/jazz arrangements and spirituals that closed the programme. The pop segment, in particular, was particularly exciting as we saw the choir sing from memory, accompanying their vocals with syncronised clapping, foot stomping and various hand percussion instruments. Pieces that they presented in this segment are their trademark arrangement of Moon River, a Fly Me to the Moon that sparkled with unexpected jazz harmonies, and indie rock song Mirrorball by British band Elbow.
The concert ended on a high note, literally, with a whooping high note declaimed by a soprano countertenor at the end of Ride the Chariot, inspiring audiences to give them a standing ovation. An unexpected encore of Rasa Sayang (sung from memory) brought the singers and audience closer together, an experience that we got to share with an impromptu meet and greet at the foyer as well. It was a generous gesture that made the evening all the more memorable for everyone.