The St. Charles Singers, the internationally recognized professional chamber choir founded and conducted by Jeffrey Hunt, will conclude its 29th concert season in March with the sixth and newest installment of its enterprising Mozart Journey series.
The much-admired, mixed-voice choir of 36 singers based in St. Charles, and the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra with concertmaster Thomas Yang, will present the season-finale program "Mozart Journey VI: Regal Mozart" at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, at St. Vincent de Paul Church, 1010 W. Webster Ave., Chicago; and 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at College Church, 332 E. Seminary Ave., Wheaton.
Both locations are first-time venues for the St. Charles Singers.
Acclaimed opera, concert, and recital singer Jamie Van Eyck, mezzo-soprano, will make her debut with the St. Charles Singers as a soloist in Mozart's "Coronation" Mass in C Major, K. 317, and "Litaniae Lauretanae" (Litany of Loreto), K. 195.
The versatile young American mezzo from Wisconsin has sung roles with the Boston Lyric Opera, Madison Opera, Utah Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis, and elsewhere. Opera News described her singing as "luminescent." She has sung two recitals at the Dallas Museum of Art and two world-premiere performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, among many other engagements. In April she will perform in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" with the Arizona Opera.
Other guest soloists in the Mass and Litany include tenor Peder Reiff of Westchester, Ill., also making his debut with the St. Charles Singers. Reiff has sung with the Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Master Singers, Chamber Opera Chicago, and other choral and operatic organizations. Baritone Gerard Sundberg, a returning guest soloist, has sung extensively with the Oregon Bach Festival, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, and the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. He performed in Bach's "St. John Passion" at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris under conductor John Nelson. Sundberg is a music professor at Wheaton College.
Soprano soloist will be Carelle Flores, an ensemble member of the St. Charles Singers. Flores was a Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Semi-Finalist for 2009 and a Regional Finalist in 2007. She has sung in Mozart operas with Florida's Palm Beach and Sarasota Operas. A resident of Batavia, Ill., she joined the St. Charles Singers in 2011 and distinguished herself as soloist in a Mozart Journey concert during her first season with the choir.
The "Regal Mozart" concert takes its name from the celebratory "Coronation" Mass, one of the composer's best-known large-scale works. The Mass was performed at coronation festivities for European emperors, although it wasn't written specifically for that purpose. The work is a favorite of opera lovers because of the intriguing similarity between one of its soprano solos and an aria from "The Marriage of Figaro."
Like the Mass in C Major, Mozart's spacious, wide-ranging "Litaniae Lauretanae," K. 195, is also scored for chorus, soloists, and orchestra. Rarely heard nowadays, it's a series of prayers set to music that shares traits with the composer's operas, symphonies, and concertos.
Rounding out "Regal Mozart" is the Cassation No. 2, K. 99, an all-instrumental work scored for oboes, horns and strings. Cassations, along with divertimenti and serenades, were entertainment pieces performed at high-society social events. Mozart wrote the Cassation No. 2 when he was 13.
The St. Charles Singers and Metropolis Chamber Orchestra launched their multi-season Mozart Journey initiative in 2010. The choir will perform all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sacred choral music -- more than 60 works -- in the course of 17 concert programs. It's a rare and perhaps unprecedented undertaking for an American choir. Each program includes one or more instrumental works for variety and context.
"Those who enjoy the solos and choruses in Mozart's operas will find a similar magic in his sacred choral music," Hunt says. "It's an unusual opportunity to get immersed in Mozart." While a few of Mozart's sacred works are well known and widely performed, many will be fresh discoveries for concertgoers, according to Hunt.
"This is a choir that performs with passion, precision, and a palpable joy in singing together," Hunt says.
Dr. Jonathan Saylor, professor of music at Wheaton College, will deliver a 30-minute pre-concert talk an hour before each concert.
'Regal' Choir Members
St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in "Regal Mozart" will include sopranos Amanda Brex-Castillo of Cary, Ingrid Burrichter and Meredith DuBon of Chicago, Candace Kless and Jennifer Mamminga of Geneva, Laura Johnson of Hanover Park, Cynthia Spiegel of La Fox, Grace Bardsley and Elizabeth Selden of St. Charles, and Karen Lukose of Winfield.
Altos are Bethany Wolford of Algonquin, Valerie Heinkel and Sarah Underhill of Aurora, Julie Popplewell of North Aurora, Bridget Kancler of Oak Park, Katy Wells of Schaumburg, Jennifer Hunt and AnDrea James of St. Charles, and Debby Wilder of Wheeling.
Members of the tenor section are Brett Kirhofer of Aurora, Matthew Bentsen and Gregor King of Chicago, Bryan Kunstman of DeKalb, Tim Bergman of St. Charles, David Hunt of Wayne, Jay Cunningham and Steve Williamson of West Chicago, and Bob Boyd of Westmont.
Basses include Phil Nohl of Aurora, Douglas Peters of Batavia, Antonio Quaranta of Carol Stream, David Hartley of Lake in the Hills, Ernie Klapmeier and Mike Popplewell of North Aurora, Nate Coon of Palatine, and Michael Thoms of Warrenville.
Tickets and Information
Single tickets for Mozart Journey concerts are $40 general adult admission, $30 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students.
Tickets are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling (630) 513-5272. Tickets are also available at TownHouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability. Group discounts are available.
Sponsors and Supporters
St. Charles Singers' business sponsors include AlphaGraphics, Martopia, TownHouse Books & Café, and Yurs Funeral Homes, St. Charles; and Graham's Fine Chocolates & Ice Cream, Geneva and Wheaton.
The organization is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development; City of St. Charles Visitors Cultural Commission; Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley; and Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.