His Majestie's Clerkes and the Chicago Baroque Ensemble | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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His Majestie's Clerkes and the Chicago Baroque Ensemble


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Anne Heider, director of the Chicago-based a cappella choir His Majestie's Clerkes, first learned about Marc-Antoine Charpentier's C-major Te Deum--an elaborate arrangement of a Christian hymn of thanksgiving--more than two decades ago, in a graduate course on Baroque performance practice. Unlike the French composer's D-major Te Deum, the C-major is rarely performed these days--in part because the only available edition of the score calls for two choirs and two orchestras, which may scare off most conductors. But for this weekend's performances, which to the best of my knowledge constitute the piece's local premiere, she's trimmed the personnel to a total of just 19, including a few area freelancers and members of the Chicago Baroque Ensemble. Two identical groups--each consisting of a vocal quartet drawn from the Clerkes, a string quartet, and a recorder player--are to occupy either side of the chancel, in keeping with the composer's original instructions; the resulting spatial effect will enhance the many contrapuntal passages. The C-major Te Deum has been tentatively dated to the 1690s, during Charpentier's tenure as master of music at the Eglise Saint-Louis in Paris. He'd studied with Giacomo Carissimi, acquiring a knack for shapely melody and dramatic harmony, and had wedded this Italian influence to his own penchant for French dance rhythms, from the minuet to the grand march. In contrast to the D-major Te Deum, with its florid trumpet calls and raucous drumrolls, the C-major is elegant and beatific. It will make up the entire second half of this program devoted to music from the golden age of Louis XIV; on the first half, CBE violists da gamba John Mark Rozendaal, Mary Springfels, and Craig Trompeter will play Marin Marais' Suite in D, and the Clerkes will sing Charpentier's Litanies de la Vierge and four motets by Guillaume Bouzignac. Saturday, 8 PM, Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 W. Division, River Forest, and Sunday, 7:30 PM, St. James Chapel, Quigley Preparatory Seminary, 103 E. Chestnut; 312-461-0723. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Burlingham.

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