Bulgarian Women's Choir--Angelite | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bulgarian Women's Choir--Angelite 

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The 20 women of this a cappella choir faithfully follow a venerable Balkan singing tradition, assembling their repertoire from thousands of folk tunes and Eastern Orthodox hymns that have been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. Women are thought to have inherited this legacy in part because so many young men died at war--the music needed keepers who could teach their own children. The style is instantly recognizable, even to audiences that don't understand a word of Bulgarian: its close harmonies, often sung at high volume and usually without vibrato, produce chillingly beautiful clusters of overtones, and the melodies are punctuated with whoops, yelps, and ululations, a reminder of a time when they were meant to carry across hills and valleys. Bulgarian music has roots in early Christian chants from Greece and the Middle East, and was shaped largely by Turkish and Iraqi folk idioms. Some of the songs are serene and gentle, others overflow with boisterous vitality, but hanging over almost every one is a melancholic cast, a reflection of the sorrow of the people over the many hostile occupations of their homeland. The Bulgarian Women's Choir--Angelite, formed in the early 90s, is a splinter group of the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Choir, which was the first of its kind to tour widely abroad, winning an international audience with the 1987 release of Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares. Angelite is now touring with a program of antique Eastern Orthodox music, some of which is still sung in churches today: the first half of the evening features work by 13-century scholar John Koukouzeles, and the second half consists of unattributed hymns from the 14th through 17th centuries, modeled after chants compiled by Saint John of Damascus in the eighth century. Georgy Petkov conducts. Wednesday, 8 PM, Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, 5850 S. Woodlawn; 773-702-8068.



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