St. Charles Singers to present ‘Candlelight Carols’ in Wheaton, St. Charles, Chicago

The St. Charles Singers perform at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago.

The St. Charles Singers, the acclaimed mixed-voice chamber choir led by founder and choirmaster Jeffrey Hunt, will present a new edition of its annual Candlelight Carols program from Dec. 2 to 4, featuring “the heavenly sounds of the harp,” Hunt said.

Harpist is Erin Freund, making her St. Charles Singers subscription-concert debut.

“Most of the music will be new to the choir,” Hunt said in a news release. “We’re looking forward to exploring these beautiful works for the first time and sharing them with our audiences.”

St. Charles Singers choirmaster and founder Jeffrey Hunt stands in Baker Memorial United Methodist Church of St. Charles.

In creating the program, Hunt said he sought out “pieces that contrast and work well with each other, while offering a variety of moods, textures and tempos that will delight listeners.”

The St. Charles Singers will present Candlelight Carols at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St., Chicago; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles.

Harpist Erin Freund will appear with the St. Charles Singers.

Harp! The Herald Angels Sing

The harp will be heard in 10 of the program’s 18 seasonal gems. Original compositions and arrangements include Stephen Chatman’s “Lullay My Liking”; Marjorie Hess’s “The Oxen”; Jeffrey Van’s “El Rorro”; Lee R. Kesselman’s “The Friendly Beasts”; Paul Halley’s “The Cherry Tree Carol”; John Rutter’s “Angels’ Carol” and “Joseph’s Carol”; Ola Gjeilo’s “The Rose”; and Stephen Paulus’s “Wishes and Candles.”

The Paulus piece, which includes the lyrics “a wish for each candle we light,” was composed for the 1998 Christmas tree lighting at New York’s Lincoln Center.

Halley’s “The Cherry Tree Carol” is a 2019 arrangement of a traditional English and American Appalachian folk song scored for voices, guitar and percussion (shaker and bohdran) with harp in lieu of organ.

The program includes a work for solo harp: 20th-century French composer-harpist Marcel Tournier’s “Six Noëls pour la Harpe,” Op. 32.

Freund, the concert’s harpist, is an assistant professor of music at Augustana College. She holds a doctoral degree in music, certificate of performance and master’s degree in music from Northwestern University, where she studied under former Chicago Lyric Opera principal harpist Elizabeth Cifani. She received a bachelor’s degree in music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music under internationally acclaimed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis.

In addition to her recital and orchestral appearances, Freund has performed extensively with choirs.

St. Charles Singers

A Cappella Carols

The program’s a cappella offerings include English Renaissance composer Thomas Weelkes’s “Gloria in excelsis Deo”; Philip Stopford’s “Lully, Lulla, Lullay”; Jocelyn Hagen’s “Mother’s Song”; René Clausen’s”Magnificat”; Alice Parker and Robert Shaw’s “Christ was born on Christmas Day” and “How Unto Bethlehem”; and David Wilcocks’s “Silent Night,” a St. Charles Singers holiday staple, with an additional verse arranged by choral composer Robert A. Boyd of Westmont.

The St. Charles Singers also will premiere Boyd’s new arrangement of “O Come, Emmanuel,” commissioned by the choir.

Hunt is pairing Stopford’s and Hagen’s songs as a set. Both are deeply moving works written from a mother’s perspective.

Stopford’s lullaby is a contemporary take on a centuries old verse, set in Biblical times, in which a mother laments the fate of her young son under King Herod’s decree that all male infants be killed.

Hagen’s tranquil and richly harmonic work is a 2020 setting of an anonymous Japanese text in which a mother wishes for her child’s comfort and safety.

Holiday singers

Thirty-seven St. Charles Singers ensemble members will perform in Candlelight Carols.

Sopranos include Jeanne Fornari of Batavia; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich, Elburn; Karen Rockett, Glendale Heights; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Jennifer Gingrich and Meredith Taylor Mollica, both of Naperville; and AnDréa James and Cynthia Spiegel, both of St. Charles.

The alto section includes Christina Collins of Arlington Heights; Margaret Fox, Batavia; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Chelsea King, North Aurora; Jennifer Hunt, St. Charles; Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills; and Karen Archbold and Rachel Taylor, both of Wheaton.

Tenors are Tyler Theis, Aurora; Rob Campbell, DeKalb; Bradley Staker, Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Jonathan Cramer, Gurnee; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, North Aurora; David Hunt, Wayne; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

Bass voices include Michael Thoms, Aurora; Brandon Fox, Batavia; David Zemke, Bloomingdale; Nate Coon and Brian Jozwiak, both of Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; David Hartley, Lake in the Hills; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; and Antonio Quaranta, River Grove.

Tickets and information

Tickets cost $40 for adults, $35 for seniors ages 65 and older and $10 for students. Group discounts are available.

Tickets and information are 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 may be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.

St. Charles Singers

Founded and directed by Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all forms. Hailed by American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” the mixed-voice ensemble includes professional singers, choral directors and voice instructors, some of whom perform with other top-tier Chicago choirs. Classics Today has called the ensemble “one of North America’s outstanding choirs,” citing “charisma and top-notch musicianship” that “bring character and excitement to each piece.”

Among the St. Charles Singers’ prominent guest conductors have been renowned English composer John Rutter, founder of the Cambridge Singers; Philip Moore, composer and former music director at England’s York Minster cathedral; and Grammy Award-winning American choir director Craig Hella Johnson. The choir launched in St. Charles in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.