St. Charles Singers to launch 40th anniversary celebration with concerts April 20-21 in Wheaton and St. Charles

The St. Charles Singers’ season finale concerts April 20-21 will mark the start of the internationally recognized chamber choir’s 40th anniversary celebration with a program featuring songs about nature, especially flowers, and romantic love.

“We’ll be presenting a heartfelt musical bouquet to our audiences,” says Jeffrey Hunt, the choir’s founder and artistic director.

As a nod to the past, the choir will offer works they’ve cherished over the years, including folk songs from the English choral tradition. Looking to the future, they’ll introduce pieces they’ve never performed before.

Titled “Past As Prologue: Voices in Bloom,” the concerts are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave. in Wheaton; and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 21, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave. in St. Charles.

An hour before each concert, Marcus Jansen, who sings in the choir’s tenor section, will give a 30-minute talk about flowers mentioned in the songs and their past and present uses in gardening and landscaping. Jansen holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture from Iowa State University and is a product development manager for PanAmerican Seed, West Chicago.

“Flower power”

Flowers are a centerpiece of the spring concerts. The choir will perform 20th-century English composer Benjamin Britten’s “Five Flower Songs,” his bright, joyful, and musically varied settings of poems from past eras: “To Daffodils,” “The Succession of the Four Sweet Months,” “Marsh Flowers,” “The Evening Primrose,” and “Ballad of the Green Broom.”

“These are beautifully crafted works, each with its own musical identity,” Hunt says.

In “Four Sweet Months,” the soprano voices represent April, the altos May, the tenors June, and the basses July. In “The Evening Primrose,” Britten paints a sonic nightscape where the primrose blossoms in the dark and retreats at the first rays of daylight.

“Bushes & Briars”

The mixed-voice choir will reprise six songs from their critically acclaimed album, “Bushes & Briars: Folk-Songs for Choirs Books 1 & 2,” named for the collection of traditional British folk tunes edited by renowned English composer and choirmaster John Rutter. Rutter has spoken glowingly of the St. Charles Singers and has conducted them on multiple occasions over the decades.

Songs include Rutter’s arrangements of “O Waly, Waly” (Wail, Wail) and “Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron”; “The Oak and the Ash,” arranged by Edward Barstow; “Early One Morning,” arranged by David Willcocks; “The Turtle Dove,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams; and Gustav Holst’s arrangement of “I Love My Love.”

“The texts and emotions woven into these songs are timeless,” Hunt says. “I believe in the power of this music, which is still able to make us laugh and cry, think and wonder.”

New choral arrangements

Receiving their premieres are Hunt’s own choral arrangements of five songs from American composer Alec Wilder’s beloved children’s bedtime collection, “Lullabies and Night Songs,” originally written for voice and piano. Hunt has arranged “Star Wish,” “Many Million Years Ago,” “Seal Lullaby,” “Douglas Mountain,” and “Fiddle dee dee.”

Also new to the choir’s repertoire is Morten Lauridsen’s lush setting of James Agee’s poem, “Sure on This Shining Night,” which evokes the beauty and wonder of finding kindness in the bleakest times.

New, too, is Eric Whitacre’s “Sing Gently,” a simple four-part song for which he wrote both the words and music. Its message, he says, is “that we sing gently as one. That we be together. That we are kind and delicate with each other.” Written in the pandemic year of 2020, Whitacre premiered it over YouTube with a “virtual choir” of more than 17,000 different singers from 129 countries.


Tickets for “Past As Prologue” are $45, $40 for seniors, or $12 for students. Tickets and information are available at 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.

Blossoming voices

St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in “Past As Prologue: Voices in Bloom” include sopranos Jeanne Fornari and Karen Rockett of Batavia; Amy Bearden and Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Mary Kunstman, Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; and AnDréa James and Cynthia Spiegel, St. Charles.

The alto section includes: Valerie Bollero and Margaret Fox, Batavia; Kelly Grba, Bolingbrook; Nicole Tolentino, Glendale Heights; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; Chelsea King, North Aurora; Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills; and Karen Archbold and Rachel Miller, Wheaton.

Tenors are: Rob Campbell, DeKalb; Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, Elburn; Nicholas Metzger, Elgin; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, North Aurora; Jonathan Cramer, Waukegan; David Hunt, Wayne; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

Bass singers are: Brandon Fox, Batavia; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Nate Coon, Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Stephen Uhl, Glen Ellyn; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; Antonio Quaranta, River Grove; Aaron James, St. Charles; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore.

In addition to singing bass, Uhl is also the concert’s collaborative pianist.

Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. Hailed by American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” the mixed-voice ensemble, formed in St. Charles in 1984, includes professional singers, choral directors, and voice instructors, some of whom perform with other top-tier Chicago choirs. Classics Today has called the ensemble “one of North America’s outstanding choirs,” citing “charisma and top-notch musicianship” that “bring character and excitement to each piece.” Find out more at

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