Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Interview with Chanticleer (SG Concert on 4 Oct 2015)

The San Francisco-based, Grammy Award-winning all-male choral group Chanticleer returns to Singapore as part of their 2015/16 tour. This is the first season that is curated by their new artistic director Fred William Scott, and will also see them perform in Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai and Macau. The Mad Scene speaks to Kory Reid, Chanticleer's Assistant Music Director and countertenor with the ensemble, to find out what we can look forward to on 4 October:

The Mad Scene: Programme-wise, what can we expect in this upcoming 2015/16 tour?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): Chanticleer prepares 4-5 programs a year: an eclectic tour program, a sacred program, a Christmas program, a spring Renaissance/Baroque program, and sometimes another program/recording project/choral workshop in Sonoma, California.

For this upcoming trip, we will be singing our tour program, “Over the Moon,” in Singapore. This program showcases different music that shows the importance of the moon in our everyday lives. Sometimes we are “Over the Moon” for somebody or something. The word, “lunatic,” comes from the latin word “luna” which translates to, “moon”. Sometimes we are crazy in love, sometimes we are foolish, other times we are lonely and we loathe the brightness of the moon. Our program explores how the moon affects each facet of our lives and how it can often change our perspective of life entirely. Works include those by Monteverdi, Elgar, Josquin, Mahler, Paulus, and a newly commissioned work by Nico Muhly.

The Mad Scene: Having won Grammys and sold millions of recordings, which three of Chanticleer's recordings would you recommend to our readers?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): The three I would select would be Our Heart’s Joy, Magnificat and Someone New. Of course, check out our Grammy winners - Colors of Love and Tavener’s Lamentations and Praises – they are exceptional as well.

If you owned the three that I suggested, you would be exposing yourself to the repertoire that Chanticleer was founded to sing (Magnificat), you would hear some of our newly arranged pop, folk, and jazz tunes (Someone New), and you would also be able to hear the sounds of Chanticleer in the past (the difference in time from Our Heart’s Joy to Someone New is over 20 years). Our Heart’s Joy is also a fantastic Christmas album that features one of the most beloved pieces that we sing, - “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl.

The Mad Scene: Going back to the ensemble's roots, how did the name 'Chanticleer' come about?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): Louis Botto, Chanticleer’s founder, kept the reference to a clear singing rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” as the group’s name. It seemed befitting, especially since audiences were praising the ensemble’s light and crystal clear voices.

The Mad Scene: Why an all-male ensemble? How different is it to have guys sing the soprano and alto parts instead of women?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): Back in 15th and 16th century Europe, common practice was that boys and young men sang the treble parts in sacred choral music. Women were not widely accepted as church musicians until the middle of the 18th century, so the clear tones that came from boy sopranos sufficed for a high treble part. Chanticleer’s founder, Louis Botto, founded the group to sing music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, utilizing men (singing in their falsettos) for the soprano and alto parts. These voice types are called countertenors and Chanticleer uses 6 of these voices.

Women have vocal folds that are 10-15% shorter than men; the ease of singing high is very apparent in a women’s voice judging by the vocal quality that everyone can hear – which can also distinguish a soprano voice from an alto. The size and thinness of a woman’s vocal folds can also contribute to the sweetness or brightness in vocal timbre that a man, most likely, cannot achieve. Countertenors are not sopranos in any way, we just sing that specific voice “part” in choral music because the literature has labelled it so. Not every piece of music is perfectly suited for Chanticleer – sometimes we will transpose a piece down a perfect fourth if the piece is too high or demands too much from our countertenors.

The Mad Scene: Rehearsing and touring as singers full time, any advice on keeping the voice fresh and healthy?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): Vocal folds love three things: water, healthy exercise, and rest. When you hydrate the body with water, the vocal folds become more lubricated, which allows the singer to sing with more flexibility and ease in addition to a clearer and healthier sound quality. If you can get 8 hours of sleep a night, your vocal folds will be very happy. When you do sing (the healthy exercise part), make sure you never make sounds or sing notes that hurt your voice. Always sing with support and find how much air pressure is needed to sing notes beautifully. The minute that you sing from your layrnx, you’ll quickly find that you can’t sing through an hour rehearsal.

As far as diets go, every singer is different because every human body is different. One singer may stay away from fatty foods and dairy while another singer is chomping down on a bag of Lays potato chips before a concert.

The Mad Scene: How was your previous experience performing in Singapore? What did you miss that you would like to check out this time?

Kory Reid (Chanticleer): Chanticleer loves Singapore. The last we came was in 2013 and my fondest memory was visiting the National Orchid Garden and seeing all the different colors, breeds, and hybrids of orchid flowers. Also, the Maxwell food court was a great outing because we got to try so many different Asian dishes in one location. Oh, and the chilli crab across the street was amazing too! I believe some of us will be checking out the night safari this time. 

Prior to their concert, Chanticleer will also host a special choral workshop on 4 October 1pm. More information here:

Click here for tickers for Chanticleer's Over the Moon Concert on 4 October, 7.30pm at the Esplanade Concert Hall!

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