Chicago Chamber Choir opens season with a look back and news on its future

Mon Oct 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

By Gerald Fisher

Timm Adams opened his final season leading the Chicago Chamber Choir with a retrospective program.
Timm Adams opened his final season leading the Chicago Chamber Choir with a retrospective program.

The Chicago Chamber Choir opened their final season under outgoing artistic director Timm Adams by reaching into the collection of chestnuts and gems representing some of the finest moments of their 15-year collaboration.

The performance Sunday afternoon at Unity Lutheran Church in Andersonville was also marked by the announcement of the choir’s new artistic director, Doreen Rao, who will start in January.  Rao’s impressive resume goes back as far as the Chicago Symphony Chorus under Margaret Hillis, and in addition to current posts in Toronto and Buffalo, she is known as the founder of the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus (now Anima Young Singers). The appointment of such a qualified director bodes well for this impressive ensemble in the years to come.  (Timm Adams will be make his final CCC appearance leading the group’s holiday concerts in December.)

The afternoon’s selections were rendered in uniformly first-rate performances and it was a pleasure to hear them in this context. From Morales to Lauridsen the pieces were well-constructed and suited to the mid-size ensemble as well as meaningful on their own terms.

Highlights of the concert’s eighteen selections included several bows to the Halloween season like the energetic “alternative opener” Daemon Irrepit Callidus by Orbán and the horror invoked in The Milkman. Modern arrangements of spirituals abounded and pieces of Americana by Alice Parker, James Erb and Rene Clausen were all presented with impeccable diction and rhythmic complexity made seemingly easy.

Allen Koepke’s entertaining Wade in the Water brought the first half to a rousing close but not before the sensitive performance of two classical gems, the Cantique de Jean Racine by Faure and a perfect rendering with piano of How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place (sung in German) from the Brahms’ Requiem.

The choir under Adams has always been stylistically eclectic and a set of world music selections featured idiomatic Latin rhythms in Tree of the Lonely Soul by the Venezuelan Antonio Estévez and a Chinese folk arrangement by Chen Yi. Particularly memorable was the solo saxophone work of Dave Creighton in the Yiddish song Shedemati by Yedidyah Admon.

Former members of the Choir in the audience were asked to join in a heartfelt rendition of Lauridsen’s Sure On This Shining Night, and the vigorous Clausen spiritual Plenty Good Room ended an appealing and upbeat afternoon event.

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