ST. CHARLES SINGERS
AMERICAN REFLECTIONS20th and 21st Century Choral Music
Josiah Alwood, Dominick Argento, Traditional-Edward Chapman, Traditional-Aaron Copland, Traditional-James Erb, Traditional-Stacy Gibbs, Traditional-Shawn Kirchner, Morten Lauridsen, Robert Lowry, Jake Runestad, Traditional-Kevin Siegfried, Eric Whitacre
ST. CHARLES SINGERS
JEFFREY HUNT, conductor
Marybeth Kurnat, soprano
Chelsea Rhoades, alto
Drayton Eggleson, bass
Valerie Heinkel-Bollero, piano
"This is an exceptionally well-performed, attractively programmed disc... with a well-balanced and beautifully blended choral sound, the St. Charles Singers are totally committed to what they perform."
Philip Reed, Choir & Organ [December 2020]
“This is a treat for choral music enthusiasts… The program is a lovely idea, beautifully realized, and a great momento of performances in some of the UK’s greatest choral venues. Full notes round off a top-notch release.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [July/August 2019]
“Hunt provides informative notes, grouping the songs into four themes: water, love, oppression, and hope. The recorded sound is surprisingly consistent given that the performances were captured in a range of venues in England. There is a nice ambience without the sacrifice of clarity. The choir sings with superb intonation and a fine balance between voices. When there are vocal solos, they are superbly sung, particularly by soprano Marybeth Kurnat in Runestad’s piece. The provision of texts is a helpful bonus. Strongly recommended to those who love choral music.”
Henry Fogel, Fanfare [July/August 2019]
“This disc scores on three counts: First, the program is cohesive and carefully considered (like the best concert performances), which makes for an absorbing listening experience. Second, the music used to construct that program is an anthology of mostly familiar and completely accessible works that reflect the best of American choral music. Finally, the choir turns out consistent, crisp performances of everything on the program with a rich, evenly balanced sound. This is a fine recording, one that will be a boon to choral directors and more casual listeners alike.”
James V. Maiello, Fanfare [July/August 2019]
“All of the featured works are cast in an attractive, lyrical, and melodic style that celebrates the beauty of the voice in song. And the voices of the St. Charles Singers are quite beautiful, indeed. The group offers a marvelous blending of the chorus’ four principal vocal registers, and the ensemble’s minimal application of vibrato enhances the clarity both of the musical line and text. The St. Charles Singers and Jeffrey Hunt also exhibit a keen appreciation and sensitivity for the repertoire, and an obvious joy in the process of sharing that music with audiences. This is a first-rate ensemble in every aspect… A lovely disc, one that I am sure will provide many of our readers with great pleasure. Recommended.”
Ken Meltzer, Fanfare [July/August 2019]
“Great God Almighty is a vocal workout for chorus that tells of a slave’s attempt to escape. Conductor Jeffrey Hunt and the St. Charles Singers perform this piece with precision and dramatic pathos that brought tears to this reviewer’s eyes. For me it is the most arresting piece on the CD, even though the fine performance of Walden Pond is the center of attention. Great God Almighty demands a wide range of dynamics, and every aspect of dramatic choral singing imaginable. The St. Charles Singers perform all of this with seeming ease… All of the artists on this CD perform with great virtuosity and their sounds are clearly reproduced on this excellent MSR disc.”
Maria Nockin, Fanfare [July/August 2019]
"The St Charles Singers are a national treasure. I’ve heard a lot of chamber choirs both in concert and on CD and this is is one of the best. The sopranos shine without becoming shrill, the altos and tenors supply loving contrast in the inner voices, and the basses supply a solid lower line without grumbling. The singers listen and blend perfectly, and diction is superb—rarely did I have to consult the booklet for the words. Founder Jeffrey Hunt deserves every praise for bringing together such a fine group of singers and then leading them with such skill, precision, and imagination."
Reynolds, American Record Guide [September/October 2019]
"James Erb’s sweet and gentle arrangement of ‘Shenandoah’ and Irving Fine’s lovely arrangement with its wonderful string solos of Copland’s setting of ‘Long time ago’ set the stage for Dominick Argento’s Walden Pond in only its second recording... Backed by three cellos and a harp, the choir is given all sorts of wonderful sounds to make and songs to sing... Walden Pond is thoughtful yet impulsive, with grand moments of beauty... [In] Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on and a nostalgic alternative version of ‘Shall we gather at the river’, the impact of America’s unresolved darker side is deeply felt... The full choir finish with their best singing in the upbeat traditional Appalachian song ‘Bright Morning Stars’."
Laurence Vittes, Gramophone [August 2019]
“Enthralling is the single word I must use to describe the superb MSR Classics CD American Reflections... The recording is imbued by the engaging electricity of live performances captured during the Singers’ tour of England in 2017... Hearing the opening to this recording drew me immediately into the Singers’ performances. They captivated me first note to last. The works have a magical quality that one must attribute to Hunt’s conducting, tutelage and guidance, because after all a choir is a team of many parts which needs a guiding force to meld together its many talents across the vocal spectrum into an expressive whole.”
Joel C. Thompson, Cherry Grove Music Review [May 2019]
“The repertoire is wide-ranging in time and subject matter, and the St. Charles Singers handle it all with smooth and very pleasant tone, skillfully highlighting the emotional high points of each piece. Sincerity is the watchword here: the singers do not sound as if they are just going through the paces of performances, but are genuinely trying to bring the emotional content of the words and music across to the audience… This is a fine chorus that sings very well”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad.com [May 2019]
PROGRAM NOTESAmerican Reflections is a collection of live recordings made by the St. Charles Singers during our concert tour of England in 2017. It was our great joy to share this music with our friends overseas, and to perform it in magnificent spaces. The works by Argento, Erb and Lauridsen were performed and recorded in the Ripon Cathedral; the Gibbs and Siegfried at St. James’s Church in Piccadilly, the Chapman and Whitacre at the Lincoln Cathedral Chapter House, and the Fine, Hawley, Kirchner and Runestad at the Durham Cathedral. Now, it is our great joy to share this music with you.
Jeffrey Hunt brings his focus on outstanding repertoire, communicative performances and sincere singing to his programs, and is known for his lively – yet always sensitive – guidance of his choir. As founder and Music Director of the St. Charles Singers, Hunt’s emphasis on musicality with understanding, imagination, and transparency creates beautifully polished and endearing performances by an ensemble known for exquisite singing. Hunt, in addition to directing the St. Charles Singers, is Director of Music at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, serves as adjunct faculty at Elgin Community College, is active in several choral directors’ associations and maintains an active voice studio. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from Northwestern University.
The St. Charles Singers is a professional choral organization under the leadership of Jeffrey Hunt. Dedicated to the performance, promotion and preservation of the finest choral music, this highly acclaimed choir engages singers from the Chicago area to inspire audiences with riveting and captivating concerts and recordings. Placing a strong emphasis on collaboration, the ensemble regularly performs with the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra, most notably with their recent and historic undertaking of The Mozart Journey, a 17-concert series through which the complete known body of the composer’s sacred choral works will be performed and recorded. In the summer of 2017, St. Charles Singers gave its debut solo performance at the prestigious summer Ravinia Festival. Based in St. Charles, Illinois, the choir gives subscription concerts in Chicago and throughout the surrounding region, performs at national choral conventions, tours internationally and can be heard on four commercial recordings.
The mission of St. Charles Singers is to perform, promote and preserve the finest choral music to inspire diverse audiences regionally, nationally and internationally.
Recorded 14-21 June 2017 by Atelier HudSonic, Chicago. Producer / Engineer: Hudson Fair.
PROGRAMTraditional American Folk Song
Arranged by James Erb (1926-2014)
Traditional American Folk Song
Adapted by Aaron Copland (1900-1990) | Transcribed by Irving Fine (1914-1962)
LONG TIME AGO
Dominick Argento (b.1927)
Text by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
I. The Pond
V. Walden Revisited
Eric Whitacre (b.1970)
Original Spanish text by Octavio Paz (1914-1998)
Morten Lauridsen (b.1943)
Text by Rainer Maria Rilke (1874-1926)
Arranged by Edward T. Chapman (1902-1981)
SHE’S LIKE THE SWALLOW
Robert Lowry (1826-1899)
Arranged by William Hawley (b.1950)
Arranged by Stacy Gibbs (b.1964)
GREAT GOD ALMIGHTY
Jake Runestad (b.1986)
Text by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)
WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
Traditional Shaker Song
Arranged by Kevin Siegfried (b.1969)
I HUNGER AND THIRST
Josiah Kelley Alwood (1828-1909)
Arranged by Shawn Kirchner (b.1970)
Traditional Appalachian Song
Arranged by Shawn Kirchner
BRIGHT MORNING STARS