His Majestie's Clerkes with Alice Parker | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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His Majestie's Clerkes with Alice Parker


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Alice Parker conducting His Majestie's Clerkes is a match made in heaven. A prolific composer and a respected choral director, Parker has been a real pioneer in a field not always known for its hospitality toward women. She was a longtime assistant to Robert Shaw and his chorale, but came into her own training generations of American singers in the workshops and summer camps she hosts--in fact, that's where Anne Heider, the Clerkes' artistic director, first met her. Naturally, arrangements and originals by Parker are prominently featured on the program for her Chicago podium debut, which represents a new direction for the 21-member a cappella choir. Only in the last several years have the Clerkes added New England hymns and eastern European folk songs to their largely liturgical repertoire. Now, under Parker's tutelage, the Clerkes will sing a potpourri of unfamiliar anthems, folk songs, and spirituals in English and also Yiddish, Chinese, Spanish, and Quechua. Included is Parker's own song cycle Hollering Sun, whose English texts are poems inspired by Native Americans' deep connection with nature--even though her music doesn't pretend to borrow from Native American sources. Also on the program are two sets of songs based on the pentatonic scale: three Ecuadorean tunes arranged by Robert Greenlee, an American scholar, and six Chinese songs originally arranged by Chen Yi for Chanticleer, the Bay Area male a cappella group. It'll be interesting to see how the Clerkes--uncanny imitators in tip-top vocal shape--do with the heavily nasal, high-register dialects of Anhui and Yunnan, two of the provinces where Chen, like Bartok, spent time collecting and notating local songs. Saturday, 8 PM, First Congregational Church of Evanston, 1445 Hinman, Evanston, and Sunday, 7:30 PM, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, 65 E. Huron; 312-461-0723. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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