By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
People in the pews of St. Peter in Chains Cathedral Tuesday evening sat shoulder to shoulder.
Way in the back, some strained their necks to see who was making the sonorous sounds up front, and it wasn't even Easter Sunday.
They were there to hear Chanticleer, a Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble of 12 men known for impeccable intonation and breathtaking, stylish interpretations.
The group's repertoire is vast. At Tuesday's concert - part of the cathedral's 2002-03 concert series - Chanticleer performed music from the 14th and 15th centuries as well as that of contemporary composers Jackson Hill and Brent Michael Davids.
The program, called "American Journey," reflected the fabric and history of America.
The concert opened with two works representing the "New Spain" of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
Chanticleer's performance of Juan de Lienas' "Credidi" and Juan Gutierrez de Padilla's "Versa est in luctum" showed a pureness in harmony. It was as if a flawlessly balanced string orchestra was on stage.
The careful, deliberate phrasing of passages in Steven Stucky's "Whispers" allowed the beauty of the lyrics - derived from William Byrd's Ave vernum corpus and Walt Whitman's "Whispers of Heavenly Death" to come through.
Jackson Hill's Japanese-inspired "Voices of Autumn" drew some of the evening's longest applause - after the audience sat in silence when the work was finished, perhaps taking it all in.
Elegant in its simplicity - the work draws from Japanese traditional music and chant - the result was a gorgeous soundscape, their voices fusing together like watercolors.
Tuesday evening marked the world premiere of Finnish composer Jaakko Mantyjarvi's "The Ballad of the Oysterman." The group handled the key changes of the folksy song well.
Chanticleer rounded out the night with a stellar rendition of "Shenandoah," arranged by Marshall Bartholomew and James Erb, three by Stephen Foster, including "Camptown Races" and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair."
And spirituals "Following my Children Home," and "All Night, All Day," arranged by Chanticleer music director Joseph Jennings, were soulful and emotive.
With timely humor - they told the audience they chose this song because of our dreary weather) and a lot of swing - Chanticleer finished the evening's festivities with "Blue Skies," only to return to sing another piece they said was timely, "We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace."
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