January 25, 2009


I came to St. Louis to see Chanticleer* in concert. I’ve made the online acquaintance of their newest member, Gregory, who is an absolute delight. That was no surprise; he is as witty and charming in person as he is in the ether. He is also very popular, which is also no surprise. He was kind enough to give me an hour of his time, squeezed in with a visit from an old friend and the arrival of his true love. I am thrilled he took the time to see me. We laughed and learned more about each other that the printed word only touches. I wish we lived closer; I think we’d be lunching together a lot.

Gregory is the self-described “manprano” of Chanticleer. Their concert was held in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a magnificent edifice whose interior is a national treasure of mosiac art done by Tiffany Studios. It is a befitting venue for Chanticleer.

This is the domed chancel where Chanticleer sang 
without microphones.

This is the view Gregory had.

I’ve never attended a classical choral concert before, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t have the ear to appreciate what I was hearing. That was not a problem. While Gregory was kind enough to send me some concert notes that I researched beforehand, even those songs whose language I did not understand or complexities I did not grasp were able to reach me on a visceral level. Listening to Chanticleer in that venue was a transcendent experience that brought tears to my eyes on two occasions.

The building itself has a voice to add to the music. Chanticleer made excellent use of the space, harnessing the building’s five-second reverb to make it a part of the ensemble. Notes reached out, never too far, parts weaving tonally and in volume, dips and swells, coming together as a single voice with many tones.

The sound was bold with no sharp edges. Sustained notes took on the timbre of French horns, trumpets, oboes, and flutes—wind instruments of the finest caliber. More than once it seemed the soprano tied the knot of the chord that held them together.

Gregory’s distinctive voice came through clear when intended, rising from the surface and buoyed by fellow singers. His solo—in Russian—was utter joy. He really used that space to reach us with the purest tones. Just magnificent.

If Chanticleer is appearing within driving distance, please make a point to see them. It is an experience you will never forget.

*Gregory is not pictured in their website photos yet. Stay tuned!


Gregory, the manprano said...

You are too kind! I loved meeting you, and I can't wait to do it again. Michigan is much colder than STL, but maybe that's because I had to leave Dale behind?

Much love to you.

THIS IS ME....ONLINE said...

Sounds like a one of those wonderful, memory-making moments to me. A venue like that is breathtaking and magical. Glad you got to soak it up.

My Hub is going to be in St. Louis in a couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to hear Chanticleer in concert in November at Transylvania University in Lexington. Their voices were glorious even though our venue was not nearly as splendid as your Cathedral.

Your blog is always worth visiting! Thanks.

- Lydia

Ur-spo said...

I used to go to symphony and classical concerts with a friend named Paula. I was amazed and envious how she was able to hear with such as keen ear.

She always replied that she went to concerts, viz. the more she went the better she heard/understood.
It wasn't any more complicated than that.

Keep going !

somewherejoe said...

Awesome! Wow... I'm an instant fan. Hearing Chanticleer in that setting must have been a memorable experience. Now that's what church is for.

Reminds me of jazz flutist Paul Horn, who once covertly recorded a flute solo inside the Taj Mahal. I think he was invited back subsequently. He's also recorded in the Egyptian pyramids and the Patala Palace.

Thanks for this, dear bird. I like Chanticleer's web site. Remarkable how the guys get the full SATB of a standard mixed chorus. Yum.

alto said...

"even those songs whose language I did not understand or complexities I did not grasp were able to reach me on a visceral level."

So very true. Especially given the magnificence of the venue, taking the music in on a "gut" level is the least you come away with.

Java said...

I heard the inimitable Manprano with his entourage a few months ago in a small, not-very-spectacular venue. I'm sure it was a whole different experience in the Basilica. I don't know much about music, but I know what I like. Hearing Chanticleer is a transcendent experience.