St. Charles Singers to open 40th season with music of J. S. Bach Oct. 14-15 in St. Charles

The St. Charles Singers, led by founder Jeffrey Hunt, will launch its 40th season with concerts featuring choral masterworks of Johann Sebastian Bach on Oct. 14-15 in its hometown of St. Charles.

The acclaimed chamber choir will present "Welcome Bach!" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave.

The program offers two J. S. Bach motets, neither of which the St. Charles Singers has performed before, along with polyphonic pieces from the English Renaissance to the present.

Polyphony is a musical style where multiple melodies are sung at the same time.

"Audiences will get to savor a profusion of polyphony," Hunt says.

The mixed-voice ensemble of 35 singers will give its first-ever performances of Bach's sacred motets "Fürchte dich nicht" (Do not fear), BWV 228, and "Komm, Jesu, komm" (Come, Jesus, come), BWV 229.

"These compact choral works display Bach's genius in concentrated form," Hunt says. "Though each motet lasts about eight minutes, you'll experience a full measure of Bach's musical gifts."

Performing with the choir in the Bach motets will be a period-instrument continuo - a Baroque rhythm section - of Chicago early-music luminaries Craig Trompeter, Baroque cello, and Jerry Fuller, Baroque double bass, with Stephen Uhl, organ.

Trompeter is founder and artistic director of Chicago's Haymarket Opera Company. Fuller is founder of Chicago's Ars Antigua early music group. Uhl, a versatile young organist and collaborative pianist, has been heard on WFMT radio on multiple occasions. He is collaborative artist at Elmhurst University and organist at the Union Church of Hinsdale.

Hunt says this will be the first time a group of period-instrument players has performed with the choir.

Beyond Bach, the St. Charles Singers will offer Ivo Antognini's festive motet "Jubilate Deo" (Shout to God); William Byrd's English Renaissance anthem "Sing Joyfully"; Hugo Distler's neo-Baroque "Ich wollt, dass ich daheime wär" (I wish that I were home), Op. 12, No. 5; and L. L. Fleming's arrangement of the traditional spiritual "Give Me Jesus," with duets between tenors and basses and sopranos and altos.

The choir also will sing Algirdas Martinaitis's poignant, meditative "Alleluia"; Charles Villiers Stanford's lyrical "Beati quorum via" (Blessed are those whose way is blameless) from "Three Latin Motets," Op. 38; John Tavener's "The Lord's Prayer," a work of calm, inner serenity; and Judith Weir's "I Love All Beauteous Things," written for Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday.

Most of the pieces are new to the St. Charles Singers' repertoire.

"What you'll hear at 'Welcome Bach!' - and throughout our 2023-24 season - is a wide array of beautiful, transcendent, and spiritually moving music. Some of it is challenging to perform, all of it is irresistible to listen to," Hunt says.

Tickets and information

Single-admission tickets to the St. Charles Singers' "Welcome Bach!" program are $45 for adults, $40 for seniors 65 and older, and $12 for students. Season subscriptions purchased by Sept. 30 offer a 20 percent discount over single admissions. Group discounts are available.

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.

Choristers beckoning Bach

St. Charles Singers' sopranos performing in "Welcome Bach!" include Karen Rockett of Batavia; Amy Bearden and Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich and Mary Kunstman, Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; Amanda Kohl, Oak Park; and Cynthia Spiegel, St. Charles.

Altos are Christina Collins, Arlington Heights; Valerie Bollero and Margaret Fox, Batavia; Julie Popplewell, North Aurora; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; Bethany Brewer, Palos Heights; Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills; and Karen Archbold and Rachel Taylor, Wheaton.

The tenor section includes Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, Elburn; Nicholas Metzger, Elgin; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Jonathan Cramer, Waukegan; David Hunt, Wayne; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

Bass voices are Brandon Fox, Batavia; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Brian Jozwiak, Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; Antonio Quaranta, River Grove; Aaron James, St. Charles; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore.

St. Charles Singers

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 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." The Chicago Tribune has described the St. Charles Singers as "splendidly disciplined, beautifully responsive" and proclaimed, "Chamber chorus singing doesn't get much better than this." Among the St. Charles Singers' prominent guest conductors have been renowned English composer John Rutter, founder of the Cambridge Singers; Philip Moore, composer and former music director at England's York Minster cathedral; and Grammy Award-winning American choir director Craig Hella Johnson. The choir launched in St. Charles, Illinois, in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.

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