Cross-posted at ChicagoMusic.org
Known for the stunning blend of voices, the all-male a cappella chorus Chanticleer returns to Chicago next week for an annual Christmas concert. The ensemble will perform at Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chestnut Street on December 4 and 5.
Gregory Peebles, the group’s assistant music director, is thrilled to be returning to the Windy City. Peebles graduated from Roosevelt University and also performed with the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Opera choruses. For more information visit www.chanticleer.org
When did you first learn about Chanticleer?
I first heard Chanticleer when I was a teenager on a CD. I just immediately fell in love with the ensemble and hoped that one day I’d get to sing with them. It was kind of a stretch I knew, because there are only 12 people in the group and it was as much a matter of luck and timing as it was being able to sing.
What was it that was so appealing to you about Chanticleer?
Besides that I just loved the music—because there is only so much music in the world for the counter-tenor—singing without a conductor is really unique. What we do is such an achievement and so interesting to me because the music really is something that happens organically during rehearsal and has to really rise from the singers when we’re on stage.
So without a conductor, how do you rehearse?
We have our musical director, Jace Wittig, who helps us and is our outside ear offering feedback. But in the end, it’s the 12 people on the stage making those musical decisions. It’s difficult because we don’t want to superimpose on the music and composer, so we spend a lot of time thinking about what is there on the page and what the words means and why things exist the way they do in the piece.
What can people expect at the Christmas concert?
Chanticleer Christmas is a special concert for us. We start the concert with a Renaissance chant by Jean Mouton in the dark that really sets the tone and helps us explore the mystery of the occasion. When the lights come back on it’s such an expressive moment. And it wouldn’t be a Chanticleer concert without the medley of traditional carols at the end. I hope that the audience enjoys this music as much as we love it.
Anything you’re excited to do when you’re in Chicago?
I am visiting friends and of course my old teachers at Roosevelt. In 2001 I moved to Chicago and instead of pop music or musical theater pursued choral music. I switched to singing counter-tenor when I lived in Chicago and the city was just so great and people took chances on helping me when I was literally starting back at square one as a musician.