Chicago, St. Charles groups to present 'Transfigured Shakespeare'.
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble and St. Charles Singers will headline a concert titled "Transfigured Shakespeare" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles.
Single tickets are $20 adult general admission, $15 seniors, and free for those 18 and younger. Tickets are available at gargoylebrass.com and at the door. For additional information, call the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble's Rodney Holmes at (708) 975-0055.
Highlights will include the world premiere of a brass-and-organ arrangement of trailblazing composer Arnold Schoenberg's sublime, late-Romantic tone poem "Transfigured Night" and the second-ever performance of Peter Meechan's "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" for brass quintet, organ, choir, and narrator.
The concert, presented by the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, will be the first collaboration between the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble and the St. Charles Singers.
Written in 1899 for string sextet and later transcribed for string orchestra, Schoenberg's late-Romantic "Transfigured Night" ("Verklrte Nacht") is based on a poem about a young couple on a bright, moonlit walk early in their relationship. The woman, feeling guilt and despair, reveals she is pregnant by another man, whom she never loved. Her companion says he loves her anyway and will accept the child as his own. They embrace, kiss, and continue their walk. The music traces an emotional arc from despair to joy. The new brass-and-organ version was arranged by Craig Garner and commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble.
Another Chicago Gargoyle commission, "Love Songs (Shakespeare)," is a half-hour neo-Romantic work in four movements for brass quintet, organ, choir, and narrator inspired by four of William Shakespeare's poems on love.
Movements are titled "Lost Love," "Love's Betrayal," "Love's Dream," and "Love's Ideal." Each includes the complete text of a Shakespeare sonnet (a 14-line poem) and reflects on love from a different perspective: despair, lust, infatuation, and fidelity.
"In two of the movements, the St. Charles Singers will sing sonnets to instrumental accompaniment. In the others, Joseph Jefferson Award-winning Chicago actor Kevin Gudahl will read sonnets over a background of instrumental music, similar to what's heard in Aaron Copeland's 'Lincoln Portrait,'" says Rodney Holmes, artistic director of the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble.
A stage, screen, and TV veteran, Gudahl has performed in more than 30 Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions, including title roles in "Macbeth" and "Antony & Cleopatra." International appearances include five seasons with Canada's Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Stephen Squires, resident conductor of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, will conduct "Love Songs (Shakespeare) as well as the brass and organ works.
The Chicago Gargoyle ensemble gave the world-premiere of "Love Songs (Shakespeare)" Feb. 10 in Oak Park, the work's only other performance.
Another nod to Old England, for brass and organ alone, is the concert's brief opening piece, Bedrich Smetana's "Fanfares for Shakespeare's Richard III," arranged by Craig Garner. The Gargoyles will also play Garner's Gargoyle-commissioned arrangement of Gustav Holst's "Song Without Words, 'I'll Love My Love.'"
Jeffrey Hunt, choirmaster and founder of the St. Charles Singers, will lead his mixed-voice ensemble in a set of unaccompanied choral works, including Herbert Howells' Magnificat "Collegium Regale," the Kyrie from Ildebrando Pizzetti's "Mesa di Requiem," and Benjamin Britten's virtuosic "Hymn to St. Cecilia" for five-part choir and soloists, from 1942, with text by poet W.H. Auden.
The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble features Lev Garber and Andrew Hunter, trumpets; Kathryn Swope, horn; Ian Fitzwater, trombone; and Josh Wirt, tuba. The organist is Mark Sudeith. The group takes its whimsical name from the stone figures atop gothic buildings at the University of the Chicago, where the now-professional ensemble got its start in 1992 as a brass quintet of faculty and students.
Under its founder and artistic director Rodney Holmes, it has evolved over the decades into an independent organization of classically trained musicians that focuses on commissioning and performing groundbreaking new works and arrangements for brass and pipe organ. More information at gargoylebrass.com.
Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. The mixed-voice choir launched in St. Charles in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.
ClassicsToday.com calls the ensemble "one of North America's outstanding choirs," citing "charisma and top-notch musicianship" that "bring character and excitement to each piece."