Chanticleer, “Wondrous Free”
Jan. 29, 8 p.m.
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
$10 – $45

There’s great entertainment value in the simultaneously pared-down and multifaceted medium of a cappella singing: In talented hands, the shocking range of an instrument familiar to us all – the voice – becomes a revelation. This Thursday, the paramount professionals of male a cappella group Chanticleer will perform a program of American music at St. Francis of Assisi Church at 8 p.m., marking their sixth University Musical Society performance. The group’s reputation, critical acclaim and popularity (it has won three Grammys, was recently inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and will perform more than 100 concerts this season) are unmatched in America and arguably worldwide.

“They are capable of producing whatever sound the piece calls for, whether a rich sound with vibrato for the German composer Richard Strauss or a bright, reedy sound for an American gospel number,” Paul Rardin, School of Music Associate Director of Choirs, said in an e-mail.

These are singers of the most awe-inspiring technical ability. With high male voices capable of singing soprano parts (traditionally a female line), no piece of music is out of the group’s range. They conquer any style and work with surreal techniques like overtone singing, where one voice emits two notes simultaneously. And they never stay comfortably in one musical spot.

As Rardin says, “I love Chanticleer for what they’ve done for American music. They have commissioned a great number of pieces by contemporary American composers, and have championed several American styles, in some cases devoting entire recordings to them.”

Those savvy enough to go see the performance will find themselves struck speechless.

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