Tenores de Oniferi | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Tenores de Oniferi 

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The a capella vocal style known as cantos a tenores has existed untouched in the relative isolation of central Sardinia for several thousand years, and the Sardinian quartet Tenores de Oniferi performs this rarely heard music in its traditional form. Lead vocalist Francesco Pirisi chants each melody in a piercing nasal tone marked by subtle melisma. The other members of the group (two of whom are his brothers) answer in thick harmony, made thicker by the technique of overtone singing--also used in the music of Tuva and Tibet--in which each voice sings a low fundamental note and, at the same time, one or more harmonics above it. Coalescing into unison and then pulling apart again in beautiful contrapuntal tangles, the response vocals create a dense billow of sound that seems to keep the melody aloft. The vocal effects--the rumbling low notes and whistling overtones--take some getting used to, but the songs are gorgeous and deeply soulful, and the overall effect is ultimately astonishing. There will also be a short set by Roberto Corona and Stefano Pinna, who'll play the launeddas, an ancient Sardinian triple-reed instrument that produces a bagpipelike drone. The concert is free. Wednesday, October 29, 7 PM, First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington; 312-236-4548.

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