News - Kane County

Masterworks to cap St. Charles Singers’ 12-year ‘Mozart Journey’ series

The St. Charles Singers in April 2022 in the penultimate "Mozart Journey" series concert. Guest soloist Michelle Areyzaga at left foreground.

ST. CHARLES – Culminating a 12-year musical odyssey for the St. Charles Singers, the “Mozart Journey” project will reach its final crescendo with concerts at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and 3 p.m. Aug. 28.

The professional chamber choir’s founder and music director, Jeffrey Hunt, calls it a bittersweet moment, noting the last concert program will feature some of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s best-known music. The ensemble will be accompanied by the Metropolis Chamber Orchestra.

The choir drew various performers from its talent pool over the past decade for the project, and because many of the artists wanted to be part of the final concert, the ensemble will feature a record 52 vocalists.

The St. Charles Singers in April 2022 in the penultimate "Mozart Journey" series concert.

“We’ll be pretty full in the sanctuary,” Hunt said of the choir’s home base, Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles. “Wow, we’re making a big sound,” he recalls saying to the performers during a recent rehearsal.

Since its founding in 1984, the superlative choir has earned an international reputation, and garners airplay on Chicago’s WFMT classical radio station.

With 17 concert programs, the “Mozart Journey” has created an excursion through the composer’s complete religious choral works, and St. Charles Singers is believed to be the first American choir to present this entire genre of Mozart’s music.

Hunt said it’s been remarkable to be able to do it, adding, “I feel really lucky – all the people I’ve been able to get to know musically – and it’s been a joy. Our patrons have been so supportive.”

The project was conceived as the choir neared its 25th anniversary, and the series launched in 2010.

“I wanted to do something to celebrate that milestone,” Hunt said. “That was one of the impetuses behind it. I wasn’t sure what the project would be. I thought about Mozart and all the incredible music we had not performed. So many pieces would be valuable to look into, and [are] under-performed in the repertoire.”

The series originally looked to span seven to 10 years, but the pandemic extended the time plan, and generous donors helped see it through, Hunt said.

In addition to the choir’s home base, concerts were held in venues from Wheaton and Elgin to Chicago, sharing the rarely heard Mozart works.

The St. Charles Singers in April 2022 in the penultimate "Mozart Journey" series concert.

“I would often ask the audience how many had ever heard this music,” Hunt said. “Nobody would raise their hand. I’d ask the orchestra and singers. There were many concerts where nobody had raised their hand.

“From a musical standpoint, that was the surprise for me – a wonderful surprise,” Hunt said. “We were able to experience this music. I had never conducted this music. (It was like) opening up a book together and witnessing it … all fresh and new for everybody. I think that was remarkable. How that affected the choir, the audience and the orchestra – that was fun.”

With the closing concert, Hunt said the musical program arrives at 1791, the final year of Mozart’s life.

“It’s nice to get to that place to hear the culmination of his artistry in sacred music,” Hunt said.

An earlier Mozart work included in the program for the orchestra will be the emotion-packed Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183, written when the composer was just 17 years old. From 1791 is the motet “Ave verum corpus (Hail, true body)” in D major, K. 618. Hunt calls it sublime, “four minutes of exquisite, simple, beautiful music.”

Also highlighted will be the Requiem in D minor, K. 626, considered one of the most powerful works in classical music. Written for choir, soloists and orchestra, it was Mozart’s final composition.

Gravely ill at age 35, he died before he could finish it. His student Franz Süssmayr completed the Requiem, but an aura of mystery still surrounds it and the circumstances under which it was commissioned.

“Mozart’s Requiem appears on almost every list of classical music greatest hits, and with good reason,” Hunt said.

The St. Charles Singers in April 2022 in the penultimate "Mozart Journey" series concert. Guest soloist Michelle Areyzaga.

An added gem will be the aria “Non più di fiori (No more flowers)” from his very last opera, “La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus),” K. 621, to be sung by guest soloist Michella Areyzaga.

“Michelle is going to sing a fabulous aria,” Hunt said, calling it a really demanding vocal part for the soprano.

The aria is also noteworthy for its lovely, virtuosic basset horn accompaniment, Hunt says.

The basset horn, a low-voiced member of the clarinet family, also figures prominently in the Requiem, which Hunt cites as one of many attractive connections between Mozart’s secular and sacred music.

Areyzaga, also a guest soloist in the Requiem, grew up in Elburn. A former St. Charles Singers chorister, she has achieved success as an opera, concert and recital artist.

Requiem soloists also include St. Charles Singers members Margaret Fox of Batavia, alto; Bryan Kunstman of Elburn, tenor; and Jess Koehn of Downers Grove, bass.

St. Charles Singers - sheet music

Jonathan Saylor, professor of music at Wheaton College, will give a 30-minute pre-concert talk an hour before each concert in Baker Church at 307 Cedar Ave., off Route 64.

The project performances were recorded, and will be released in the future, Hunt said. Looking past August’s dramatic conclusion to the “Mozart Journey,” the choir is planning a performance tour in Spain and Portugal in June 2023, and fans can join them on this new musical adventure. They will bring American choral music to audiences.

Tickets to “Mozart Journey XVII” cost $40 for adults, $35 for seniors age 65 and older, and $10 for students. Tickets and information are available at stcharlessingers.com or by calling 630-513-5272. Tickets are also available at Town House Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (checks or cash only at this ticket venue). Tickets may be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: St. Charles Singers’ “Mozart Journey XVII,” the finale

WHERE: Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and 3 p.m. Aug. 28

INFORMATION: stcharlessingers.com, 630-513-5272