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Hamptons Life

Nov 27, 2017 5:59 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Grammy-Winning Male Ensemble Chanticleer Will Sing At Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on December 2

Chanticleer will perform Saturday, December 2, at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
Nov 30, 2017 10:36 AM

William Fred Scott had already agreed to the job. He would meet with an ensemble called Chanticleer and conduct its concert of Mexican baroque music backed by his Atlanta Symphony.

He knew nothing about them—but that quickly didn’t matter. The sound he soon heard told him all he needed to know.

The 12 voices reached for low bass notes and stretched to high sopranos with clarity, charisma and precision—never pedantic, Mr. Scott recalled. They connected with each other, and with him, in a matter of seconds. And as they sang, he realized there wasn’t a female soprano to be found.

“I was astonished,” said Mr. Scott, now the ensemble’s music director. “This is one of the few groups of its kind. In this country, it’s the only professional chorus that is a full-time job and offers work to male sopranos and male countertenors because almost everybody else uses female sopranos and altos. So we are really, really rare. And I think in the entire music world, there may be only two or three groups like Chanticleer, where it’s all male, soprano to bass. It may seem like a niche audience, but it’s been a niche audience that’s been very loyal—and I think we return the favor.”

The day after Thanksgiving, the Grammy Award-winning group kicked off its Christmas concert series—a slate of 22 performances from West Coast to East, and back again, that features old Gregorian chant, traditional and contemporary carols and anthems, as well as international songs and commissioned pieces—making a stop on Saturday, December 2, at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.

“It’s music that changes from year to year, but there’s always a wonderful combination of the old and the new, and we have our classics, like ‘Ave Maria,’ ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ or ‘Good King Wenceslas,’” he said. “The Christmas concert has a special place in our lives because it’s one of those things that we can count on. Christmas is always going to be in December and we know we are going to be busy as ever—and we like that, I must say. We have our favorite restaurants in Chicago, and we know it’s going to be raining in Sacramento in December, so there are these things we look forward to.”

Some of their traditions date back decades, and the veterans of the group remember them well—often initiating the newer members. The lone bass, Eric Alatoree, holds the company record at 27 years and will retire at the end of this season, Mr. Scott said. He is a core of the group, both on and off the stage, known across their fan-base for his magnificent mustache and goatee—each end twisted into a thin point.

“The whole group is very fond of each other, and they turn to Eric for wonderful bits of Chanticleer history,” Mr. Scott said. “They are bound together by music of the highest quality, which is also difficult to bring off. It’s hard music to sing, and there’s no sub list. So they have to stay in good shape—vocally and physically and emotionally—and they help each other do that. Since there is no conductor ever, they depend on each other musically, so much, for their cues. They’re very attuned to each other’s eyes and lips and breathing, so there is a very tight musical bond, which also goes into their personal bond.

“That’s not to say we’re all going out to restaurants together all the time, because we’re not. They also have family lives,” the musical director continued with a laugh. “But when they come together, they do depend on each other a lot. So there’s a quality of family, or brotherhood, that’s very tangible.”

In June, Chanticleer will celebrate its 40th anniversary and a legacy that started around the San Francisco dining room table of Louis Botto. Over the years, the group’s founder was often asked if he had any idea Chanticleer would become what it is today.

To that, he would usually answer, “Yes,” smiling broadly, his eyes twinkling mischievously.

“I will never forget the first time I heard them, and I’m still impressed with the beauty of their sound, the clarity of their preparation and the diligence with which they sing, and the incredible charm they have when they perform,” Mr. Scott said. “They’re wonderful. When they come out on stage, there is this beautiful rapport with the audience, and I’ve never seen it change. No matter where we are—no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry—the audiences and Chanticleer seem to fall in love with each other instantly. And that’s like nothing I’ve ever been associated with.”

Chanticleer will perform on Saturday, December 2, at 8 p.m. at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in Westhampton Beach. Tickets range from $50 to $70. For more information, call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.

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