Chicago Chamber Choir takes audience on a spiritual journey

Sun Oct 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm

By Gerald Fisher

Photo: Lacy Westhersbee.
The Chicago Chamaber Choir performed Saturday night at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church. Photo: Lacy Westhersbee.

A nicely balanced and thoughtful program of hymns and spirituals performed by the Chicago Chamber Choir Saturday night serves as yet another reminder that we are one lucky city to have so many excellent choral groups at our command. 

This group, in particular, has been giving high-quality choral performances in various incarnations since 1996, with current artistic director Timm Adams celebrating his 10-year anniversary at the helm.  Saturday’s program at Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church took its title from the group’s newest CD, Hymns and Spirituals – Strength for the Journey. 

Adams chose a program that was unified thematically yet full of musical variety, drawing on a number of choral traditions and styles, from stolid Lutheran hymnody to jazzy riffs and even a vintage piano to illustrate timeless themes of comfort and inspiration—the essence of the hymn and the spiritual.  

From the dynamic first song My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord arranged by the prolific modern spiritual pioneer, Moses Hogan, we were swept along on a journey stretching back to the 19th century. Yet these were not simple traditional songs as sung by plain folk but artfully arranged versions with a multitude of newly minted detail in the rhythms, dynamics and harmonics. The trappings put them firmly in the last half century, when this style of art performance became a staple of the classical recitals of Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson—more recently carried on by the likes of Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman.  

Thick harmonies, complex syncopation and vocal elaboration marked nearly all the pieces chosen, and the choir tackled each with precision and clarity. They also communicated the weariness, sorrow and resignation behind the original lyrics —as well as their humor. If some of the solo turns were a bit wobbly, the overall choral quality was high with palpable energy, and demonstrated a real affinity for the idiom. 

Highlights of the program included other famous Hogan arrangements—a tender and traditional Abide with Me and the spirited Battle of Jericho—multi-voiced post-modern eclecticism from Rene Clausen, and a contemporary spiritual from Robert S. Cohen and Maria Seigenthaler.

 No texts were provided for the evening, yet most everything was clearly enunciated in the warm acoustic of the old building. The hushed ending of His Voice, arranged by Larry L. Fleming, was most effective in the final section, labeled “Peace at Journey’s End.”

The program will be repeated 3 p.m. Sunday at Unity Lutheran Church.; 312-409-6890

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Chicago Chamber Choir takes audience on a spiritual journey”

  1. Posted Oct 27, 2009 at 11:29 am by Jack Farry

    I agree with the review. It was a wonderful Saturday evening both in the selection and the performance of a wide variety of styles.
    Well done! Thank You CCC

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