Kantorei choral group will perform at St. Peter’s church on Meyer Boulevard on Sept. 23. Estelle Marie Photography
Kantorei choral group will perform at St. Peter’s church on Meyer Boulevard on Sept. 23. Estelle Marie Photography

Arts & Culture

Kantorei to bring rule-breaking choral music to St. Peter’s

By Patrick Neas

Special to The Star

September 16, 2017 06:28 AM

Kansas City overflows with an abundance of glorious choral music, and one ensemble that stands out for its distinctive voice is Kantorei.

Founded in 2009 by Chris Munce, Kantorei brings a bright and British sound to its performance. On Sept. 23, the group will present the music of Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo and contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt in a program called “The True Vine.” The concert is at St. Peter’s church on Meyer Boulevard.

Kantorei has its origins as a pick-up group performing at Catholic weddings. Munce sensed that his ensemble had something special to offer. It wasn’t long before Kantorei put together a season’s worth of music and began to make its mark in Kansas City. For Munce, what really distinguishes Kantorei is its sound.

“American choirs tend to go for a warmer sound, and we go for a ringing and resonant, bright sound,” he said. “With the small number of singers we have, 15 singers this year, to really fill the room and make the pews vibrate, it requires a brighter, resonant tone from the singers.”

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Munce believes that the group’s “bright” sound is especially suited to early music like Gesualdo’s and that Pärt’s mystical minimalism also will benefit.

“Pärt really needs a very resonant tone from all of the singers, otherwise the dissonances and the starkness of the music is very hard to detect,” Munce said.

While the Renaissance composer Gesualdo and the Estonian composer Pärt might seem worlds apart, Munce believe that they have much in common and, in concert, will enhance each other.

“I put those two composers together because they both are rule-breakers,” Munce said. “When you put Renaissance polyphony right next to a piece by Arvo Pärt, which is beautiful but very stark, very dry, all of a sudden that Renaissance music comes alive for the listener.”

Gesualdo was more than a rule-breaker in music. The composer suffered from mental illness and anger issues. In 1590, he murdered his wife and her lover, whom Gesualdo caught “in flagrante delicto.” The police report indicated the bodies were mutilated, nevertheless, the court found that the aggrieved husband had not committed a crime. Late in his life, Gesualdo had his servants beat him daily, perhaps in penance for the double murder.

Although Gesualdo’s musical lawlessness did not result in death, Munce says it is still shocking.

“Even in modern music, the convention is you start a piece or a melody in a key and interesting things might happen along the way, but you finish in that tonal center,” he said. “But Gesualdo would start with a tune, and, with no warning, would switch the tonal center and finish it in that new key, leaving the audience and singers feeling like ‘what just happened?’ It was those abrupt key changes that are shocking to the ears.”

Kantorei will sing four pieces by Pärt and seven motets by Gesualdo, pieces Munce has chosen to highlight and contrast the composers’ similarities and differences. He’s also chosen works that share spiritual themes.

“We’re calling it a conversation with the divine,” Munce said. “A lot of the texts are conversations that Jesus had with his disciples or interactions that Jesus had with characters along his journey. The concert will be broken into four different sets, where each set has one Pärt and one to three of Gesualdo’s motets. It’s almost like a wine and cheese pairing.”

7:30 p.m. Sept. 23. St. Peter’s, 701 E. Meyer Blvd. $10-$15. www.kantoreikc.org.

Charlie Albright for free

The Harriman-Jewell Series is presenting a free concert by young piano virtuoso Charlie Albright at Folly Theater on Sept. 23.
Submitted

Pianist Charlie Albright, still in his 20s, is stirring up the music world. A Steinway Artist, a 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant and a 2011-2012 Harvard University artist-in-residence, he’s already performed in some of American’s great concert halls and collaborated with artists like Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma. And now the Harriman-Jewell is presenting Albright in Kansas City on one of its free Discovery Concerts.

On Sept. 23 at the Folly Theater, Albright will give a recital of music by Leoš Janáček, Johann Strauss and Frédéric Chopin. Last year, Albright released three highly acclaimed all-Schubert recordings, so, of course, there will be some Franz Schubert on the program, too. Audiences are paying big ticket prices to hear Albright in New York, so it’s astounding that the Harriman-Jewell Series is presenting him for free.

7 p.m. Sept. 23. Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St. Free. For more information, visit www.hjseries.org.

Classics Uncorked - Future Favorites

The Kansas City Symphony’s Classics Uncorked series is often sold out. These concerts feature a winning combination of Kansas City Symphony musicians performing off-the-beaten-path music and a post-concert complimentary glass of champagne. It’s a great way to unwind in the middle of the week.

“Future Favorites” on Sept. 26 will feature new music by some of America’s most cutting-edge composers, like “Starburst” by Jonathan Leshnoff and “Rainbow Body” by Christopher Theofanidis and Mason Bates’ techno “Mothership.”

7 p.m. Sept. 26. Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. $25-$30. 816-471-0400 or www.kcsymphony.org.

Spire Chamber Ensemble

The Spire Chamber Ensemble, known for its period instrument performances of music by George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, will turn its attention to America’s own sacred music with “The Spiritual: America’s First Art Form” today, Sept. 17, at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Ben Spalding will lead his ensemble in spirituals of both Appalachia and the African-American tradition of the deep South. Countertenor Reginald Mobley will be the featured soloist.

3 p.m. Sept. 17. Trinity Lutheran Church, 5601 W. 62nd St., Mission. $25. www.spirechamberensemble.org.

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@kcartsbeat.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.