Chanticleer’s First National Youth Choral Festival

Called “stunningly expert” by the New Yorker, Chanticleer – Musical America’s 2008 Ensemble of the Year – takes its extensive nationwide education program to new heights with its first National Youth Choral Festival™. The festival, which takes place between March 26 and 29 in Chanticleer’s hometown, San Francisco, will bring together twelve high-school choirs comprising 416 student singers from across the country – five choirs from the Bay Area, and seven from as far east as Woodbridge VA and as far west as Honolulu HI. The four-day choral immersion will place the visiting choirs in close, intensive interaction with the members of Chanticleer, who will coach them in all areas critical to the choral art. The climactic event on March 29, “The Singing Life,” will feature Chanticleer and the choirs in a daylong residency at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, where the choirs will be given the opportunity to perform individually on the stage, and attend vocal master-classes led by mezzo-sopranos Frederica von Stade and Zheng Cao. That evening, all twelve choirs will come together with Chanticleer and von Stade for a gala concert under music director, Matthew Oltman, for a program featuring the American premiere of L’Annonciation, a cantata by French composer Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur.

Ben Johns, Chanticleer’s Director of Education and a member of the ensemble between 2003 and 2006, comments:

“‘The Singing Life,’ Chanticleer’s National Youth Choral Festival™, is the most comprehensive and specialized education event that Chanticleer has hosted to date. It commemorates the 10th year of our Bay Area Youth Choral Festival and expands that festival from one day and six participating schools to four days and twelve participating schools. ‘The Singing Life’ layers activities that are designed for students, teachers, conductors, composers, small ensembles, large ensembles, and honor choirs with Chanticleer interaction threaded throughout. We’re thrilled to be working with special teaching guests including San Francisco Symphony Chorus Conductor Emeritus Vance George, legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, and San Francisco Opera's Zheng Cao.

“Considering how much energy flows through our normal Bay Area festival, this weekend in March is going to be absolutely atomic. It’s my hope that this festival will impress indelibly on our collective social consciousness the relevance of music education in our schools.”

The participating choirs were selected by invitation, all of them having some prior experience in Chanticleer’s education programs here and across the country. The gala concert program for “The Singing Life” will also include Renaissance masterpieces by Gabrieli and Byrd as well as the winning composition in Chanticleer’s bi-annual Student Composition Competition, Chou Nu Er, by Taiwanese composer, Yi-Wen Chang. Irish composer Michael McGlynn, a Chanticleer favorite, is represented by a lively folk-song arrangement with the composer participating in the rehearsals via Skype, to help with tricky Gaelic pronunciation. Von Stade will join the group for a performance of another Chanticleer staple: Shenandoah.

The music of Daniel-Lesur has become a favorite with Chanticleer audiences, thanks to performances of selections from his spectacular setting of The Song of Songs for twelve-part chorus. L’Annonciation features the composer’s characteristically deft use of dense French harmonies and soaring melodic lines. Scored for chorus, chamber orchestra, and tenor soloist, the piece also calls for dramatic narration, recited by von Stade in this performance. Daniel-Lesur sadly passed away recently, but his son is ecstatic about the American premiere and hopes to attend the performance and give the students further insight into his father’s music.

Chanticleer’s mission and remarkable ability to inspire young singers from across America was documented last season in The Singing Life – the inspiration for the title of the gala concert at Davies – which has aired extensively on public television stations and is now available on DVD. The ensemble began its education program (originally called “Singing in the Schools”) in 1986, and with the help of individual contributions and foundation and corporate support, the program has evolved and grown substantially.

To learn more about Chanticleer’s First National Youth Choral Festival™ and the twelve participating choirs go to


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