St. Charles Singers to share stage with 6 high school choirs

Concerts to include students from schools in Maple Park, Sycamore, Geneva, St. Charles, Woodstock, Carol Stream

Choirmasters Connect. Local high school choral directors convene with St. Charles Singers’ founder and artistic director Jeffrey Hunt at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles, site of their upcoming “Choral Connections” concerts. Clockwise from bottom left: Bryan Kunstman, Kaneland High School; Brian Jozwiak, Woodstock High School; Laura Johnson, Glenbard North High School; Hunt; Jessica Heinrich, Geneva High School; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore High School. Not pictured: Monica Bertrand, St. Charles East.

ST. CHARLES – The St. Charles Singers will launch a new community outreach initiative with a pair of “Choral Connections” concerts Feb. 23 and 24 that will see the critically acclaimed chamber choir share the stage with vocal ensembles from six suburban high schools.

At each hour-long concert, the St. Charles Singers, conducted by founder and choirmaster Jeffrey Hunt, will welcome student choruses from three different high schools singing their own selections. The St. Charles Singers will perform a representative set of songs from its repertoire. Concerts will conclude with a joint performance by the student choristers and the St. Charles Singers.

Student choruses will come from Glenbard North High School, Carol Stream; Geneva High School; Kaneland High School, Maple Park; St. Charles East High School; Sycamore High School; and Woodstock High School. Each school will be represented by one of its regular ensembles of about 20 to 40 singers.

“‘Choral Connections’ is a pilot project celebrating the lifelong rewards and exhilarating pleasures of participating in the choral arts,” Hunt says. “It’s about connecting communities within our community, across generations and geographical boundaries.”

Hunt says he’s particularly proud of another connection: choral directors from the participating high schools are also ensemble members of the St. Charles Singers and will perform at the concerts.

Concerts are open to the public and will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 24, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles. Tickets cost $20, $12 for students.

“In addition to attracting singers’ family and friends, these concerts will appeal to everyone who enjoys choral music,” Hunt says. “It’s an opportunity to sample the St. Charles Singers’ artistry through a tasting menu of some of our signature pieces, and also hear a new generation of choristers from across the region.”

The Feb. 23 concert will feature choruses from Geneva, Glenbard North and Kaneland high schools.

Jessica Heinrich will lead her Geneva students in Russell Robinson’s arrangement of Johnny Mercer’s swinging pop classic “Dreams” and arranger Darmon Meader’s “Avalon,” based on the 1920s Jazz Age pop song that borrows a tune from Puccini’s opera “Tosca.”

Laura Johnson’s ensemble from Glenbard North will sing Westmont composer Robert Boyd’s arrangement of the traditional Hebrew song “Shalom Aleichem (Peace Be to You)” and Jester Hairstrom’s bright, energetic version of the African American spiritual “Poor Man Lazarus.”

Kaneland choristers, directed by Bryan Kunstman, will sing Estonian composer Pärt Uusberg’s “Kodutee (Journey Home),” which reflects upon life’s journey through images from nature and daily life; and Edward Bairstow’s early 20th-century Romantic “I Sat Down Under His Shadow,” based on the Old Testament “Song of Solomon” love poems.

On Feb. 24, audiences will hear choruses from St. Charles East, Sycamore and Woodstock high schools.

St. Charles East’s Monica Bertrand will direct her students in Italian Baroque composer Isabella Leonarda’s “Domine ad Adiuvandum (Lord, My God, Assist Me Now),” based on Psalm 40, and Timothy C. Takach’s “Mantra,” a setting of contemporary self-affirmations.

Drayton Eggleson will lead choristers from Sycamore in Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds’ nostalgic “Only in Sleep,” evoking adult dreams of cherished childhood friends, and Mbuso Vdlovu’s arrangement of “Ha Rese Re Bina (When We Sing Like This),” a traditional, celebratory South African song about prevailing over one’s competitors.

The Woodstock singers, under the direction of Brian Jozwiak, will present German choral composer Franz Biebl’s mid-20th-century setting of “Ave Maria (Hail, Mary),” his most famous work, and Alice Parker’s evergreen arrangement of the hymn tune “Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal.”

At both concerts, the St. Charles Singers will offer Herbert Howells’ early 20th-century Anglican canticle “Magnificat (Song of Mary),” an effervescent religious work from his “Collegium Regale” collection; and Algirdas Martinaitis’ poignant, meditative “Alleluia.”

Also featured will be British composer Robert Pearsall’s “Lay a Garland,” an eight-part Victorian madrigal influenced by Renaissance music; and Shawn Kirchner’s artful arrangement of the Appalachian folk song “Bright Morning Stars.”

The finale of both concerts will highlight the combined choirs singing Elaine Hagenberg’s “When We Love,” with its delicate melodies and rich harmonies, and Craig Hella Johnson’s vibrant arrangement of Carly Simon’s pop hit “Let the River Run.”

Hunt says the project is an opportunity for student singers “to expand their view of the choral music world, make new friendships, build teamwork and experience all the positive things that happen in music making. Mentoring young singers is an important part of our mission.”


Tickets and information are available at or by calling 630-513-5272. Tickets also are available at Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets also may be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.

St. Charles Singers on stage

St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in the “Choral Connections” concerts include sopranos Marybeth Kurnat of DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich and Mary Kunstman, both of Elburn; Kelly Johnson and Laura Johnson, both of Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; Carolyn Brummel, Sheridan; and AnDréa James, St. Charles.

The alto section includes Margaret Fox, Batavia; Kelly Grba, Bolingbrook; Monica Bertrand, Geneva; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; Julie Popplewell, North Aurora; Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills; and Rachel Taylor, Wheaton.

Tenors are Christopher Jackson, Crystal Lake; Rob Campbell, DeKalb; Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, both of Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Gregor King, North Aurora; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

Bass singers are Brandon Fox, Batavia; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Brian Jozwiak, Crystal Lake; David Hartley, Hanover Park; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; Antonio Quaranta, River Grove; Aaron James, St. Charles; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore.

Organist and collaborative pianist is Stephen Uhl of Glen Ellyn.

St. Charles Singers

Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. Hailed by American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” the mixed-voice ensemble, formed in 1984, includes professional singers, choral directors and voice instructors, some of whom perform with other top-tier Chicago choirs. Find out more at