St. Charles Singers to launch concert season

The St. Charles Singers, led by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will open its 38th concert season in early October in St. Charles, with a program featuring what Hunt describes as “the sublime sound of choir and cello.”

The program, titled “Overturn the Night: Songs of Hope and Renewal,” will mark the mixed-voice professional chamber choir’s first live-in-person performances since the start of the pandemic.

Concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles.

Hailed by American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” the St. Charles Singers will present the world premiere of acclaimed, Grammy-nominated American composer Jake Runestad’s “Cello Songs,” commissioned for the St. Charles Singers and scored for choir, cello and piano, with text by poet and librettist Todd Boss. The work’s four movements are named for the seasons of the year, a news release stated.

“Runestad writes beautifully for massed voices,” a Chicago reviewer noted. “No wonder he’s considered one of the best of the younger American choral composers.”

Runestad, who is based in Minneapolis, will be present for both concerts.

Also written for choir and cello is Dan Forrest’s romantic song “The Sun Never Says,” about the sun, Earth and “a love that lights the whole sky.”

Guest cellist is Cameron Grimes, a British-American artist now based in the U.S., who performed with the St. Charles Singers during the choir’s most recent English concert tour.

Grimes recently completed a master of arts degree in cello performance from the Royal Academy of Music. He was founding cellist of the Emanuel String Quartet, and has performed at chamber festivals in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Czech Republic, Netherlands and beyond. In addition to his work as an orchestral musician, he has performed on soundtracks for BBC television and the Fox Searchlight Pictures film “Tolkien.”

Audiences will hear the world premiere of St. Charles Singers soprano Marybeth Kurnat’s “Epitaph for a Romantic Woman,” her musical setting of a poem by Louise Bogan, whom the Poetry Foundation calls “one of the most accomplished American poet-critics of the mid-20th century.”

The choir will perform Bob Chilcott’s “Unison,” an anthem to human unity; Arvo Pärt’s “O Weisheit,” with text from the book of Isaiah; Will Todd’s “Remembrance,” on the subject of World War I; the Black spirituals “My Lord, What a Mornin’” by Harry T. Burleigh and “Soon-ah will be done” by William Dawson; Jonathan Dove’s “In beauty may I walk,” based on a Navajo text that celebrates the natural world; Joan Szymko’s “River,” a song of environmental urgency; and pop singer Carly Simon’s dreamlike and hopeful “Let the River Run,” arranged by Grammy Award-winning choirmaster Craig Hella Johnson.

Tickets and information

Single admission to “Overturn the Night” is $40 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students. Group discounts are available.

Tickets and information are available at www.stcharlessingers.com or by calling 630-513-5272. Tickets are also 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.

Season-opener Singers

St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in the season-opener concerts include sopranos Jeanne Fornari of Batavia; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Palmisano and Mary Kunstman, both of Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Cynthia Spiegel, La Fox; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; and AnDréa James and Karen Rockett, both of St. Charles.

Altos are Margaret Fox and Valerie Heinkel-Bollero, both of Batavia; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Rachel Miller, Maple Park; Julie Popplewell and Chelsea King, both of North Aurora; Karen Archbold, Wheaton; and Debra Wilder, Wheeling.

The tenor section includes Tyler Theis, Aurora; Brian Jozwiak, who also sings bass, Crystal Lake; Rob Campbell, DeKalb; Bradley Staker and Bryan Kunstman, both of Elburn; Jonathan Cramer, Gurnee; Gregor King, North Aurora; and Aaron James, St. Charles.

The bass section comprises Michael Thoms, Aurora; Brandon Fox, Batavia; Nate Coon, Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; Antonio Quaranta, River Grove; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore.

Collaborative pianist is Stephen Uhl of Glen Ellyn.

Holiday preview

The choir’s beloved “Candlelight Carols” concerts will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, at St. Michael Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton; at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut, Chicago; and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles.

St. Charles Singers

Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a professional chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms. The mixed-voice ensemble of 30-plus voices 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 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, Illinois, in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.

The website notes that masks will be required of audience members and volunteers at this time.