Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares

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Despite its ancient sound, this Bulgarian women's choir is a modern creation: Philip Koutev established the Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic in 1951, and the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, as it's more formally known, followed a year later. Koutev's project was to arrange traditional Bulgarian songs, which combine Slavic, Mediterranean, Turkish, and Iraqi influences, in an ambitious modern style for a large a cappella group (presently the choir has 26 members). The songs are sometimes placid, sometimes rowdy, and always colored with bone-deep sorrow; the arrangements emphasize eerie close harmonies, sung without vibrato at high volume. Courted by 4AD in the mid-80s after Peter Murphy seduced the label boss with a tape, then embraced during the 90s world-music craze, the Bulgarian Voices have outlasted plenty of fads, lending their haunting sounds to collaborations both ridiculous and sublime (Stevie Wonder, Huun-Huur-Tu). They're playing to a hometown crowd of sorts here, at St. John of Rila Bulgarian Church. A rumor's been going around that the shows will be in the church's basement hall, but it ain't so--they'll be in the soaring neo-Gothic sanctuary, where the acoustics ought to be heartbreakingly perfect for this stuff. According to the promoter, they'll sing "new repertoire, old favorites, and some holiday pieces as well," but I'm not expecting "Frosty the Snowman." See also Saturday. a 8 PM, St. John of Rila Bulgarian Church, 5944 W. Cullom, 847-331-7842, $35, $30 in advance, $25 students and seniors. A

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