Chicago A Cappella | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Chicago A Cappella 

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Now in its tenth season--no small accomplishment for an independent choir--Chicago a Cappella is in its best shape yet. Although the members' voices aren't spectacular individually, when they blend they're warm and pleasing enough to make the audience feel part of a communal experience. The ensemble--composed of 9 regulars and 11 guests drawn from the likes of the Chicago Symphony Chorus--performs an eclectic range of material that runs from medieval liturgical music to contemporary pop. Under the direction of bass and cofounder Jonathan Miller, it digs deep into the unaccompanied choral repertoire and imaginatively presents the unusual yet worthy fare it uncovers--this season includes concerts centered thematically on Shakespeare, food, and the rose. For the latest edition of its popular holiday program the emphasis is on Jewish and Nordic works (including "Funky Dreidl" by Robert Applebaum, "Immanuel Oss I Natt" by Iceland's Thorkell Sigurbjornsson, and "Kristallen Den Fina" by Sweden's Gunnar Eriksson), but there are also songs from Ukraine ("Boh Sja Razdaje") and India (Vanraj Bhatia's "Hemant," based on a raga associated with winter, with a Hindi text derived from 11th-century Sanskrit sources). The only Christian standard here, Palestrina's intricately textured "Jubilate Deo universa terra," is rarely performed, since its technical challenges require a choir of extremely high caliber. The concluding work is the centuries-old Swedish tune "Gaudete," recorded by British folk-rockers Steeleye Span in the early 70s, arranged here for six voices. Friday, December 6, 8 PM, Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut; Saturday, December 7, 8 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; Sunday, December 8, 7:30 PM, Lutkin Hall, Northwestern University, 700 University, Evanston; Sunday, December 15, 3 PM, Community United Methodist Church, 20 N. Center, Naperville; 800-746-4969 or 773-755-1628.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Ebright.

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