Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek 

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Since the moody disposition of jazz seems so at odds with the pious serenity of monastic chants, on paper this collaboration between a British early-music vocal quartet and a Scandinavian jazz saxophonist looks like a gimmick. But as demonstrated on their latest CD, Officium, the experiment works quite well. The trick here, I think, is to have both the soprano and tenor saxes at the service of the vocal lines. Thanks to Garbarek's virtuosity, they are versatile substitutes for trumpets and other brass instruments that might've originally accompanied the singing. The sequence of chants and motets in this concert follows that of the CD: it begins with an a cappella version of "Parce mihi Domine" (a ceremonious passage from the Officium Defunctorum by the 16th-century Spanish kapellmeister Cristobal Morales) and ends with another version boasting sax interpolations. In between are a variety of pieces from the 14th and 15th centuries, including polyphonic hymns by Dufay and de la Rue. An intriguing choice is the Beata Viscera, a 12th-century processional hymn set to music by Perotin. Bringing all this to life are the Hilliards--Roger Covey-Crump (tenor), David James (countertenor), Gordon Jones (baritone), and John Potter (tenor)--now in their 20th year as a top-drawer early-music ensemble. Sunday, 8 PM, Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State; 722-5463.

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

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