DuPage artists to be part of St. Charles Singers concert of Mozart rarities

Soprano Michelle Areyzaga and orchestra team up with choir

St. Charles Singers

The St. Charles Singers, led by founder and music director Jeffrey Hunt, will offer the next-to-last installment of its milestone, multi-season Mozart Journey project in concerts Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10, in St. Charles, featuring four of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s rarely heard religious choral works.

Guest soloist is soprano Michelle Areyzaga, a former St. Charles Singers ensemble member, who has achieved success as an opera, concert and recital artist, a news release stated.

The acclaimed chamber choir’s Mozart Journey XVI program, with the Metropolis Orchestra, is the penultimate destination in its decade-long voyage through the beloved classical composer’s complete religious choral works, few of which are ever heard live in concert.

“Many listeners find Mozart’s sacred choral music as thrilling and satisfying as his operas, symphonies, and chamber works, yet most of this music remains neglected,” Hunt said in the release. “Our Mozart Journey has provided the only opportunity that Chicago-area audiences will likely ever have to hear many of these works in person, and with the orchestral accompaniment that Mozart specified. This is especially true of our April concerts.”

The program offers Mozart’s “Tantum Ergo” in D Major, K. 197; Missa brevis in G Major, K. 140; “Two German Hymns,” K. 343; and Missa solemnis in C Minor, “Waisenhaus,” K. 139.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles.

Jonathan Saylor, professor of music at Wheaton College, will give a 30-minute pre-concert talk at Baker Church an hour before each concert.

Multiple Missas

Mozart was just 12 years old when he composed the Missa solemnis, K. 139, for the opening ceremonies for the newly built Waisenhaus Church in Vienna. A local newspaper reported that the Missa “met with universal approval and admiration.”

Among highlights is the virtuosic operatic aria “Quoniam tu solus,” to be sung by guest soprano Areyzaga.

Hunt describes the work as “dramatic and majestic.”

The Missa brevis, K. 140, is unusual in that it bears no resemblance to Mozart’s other Masses, but does share stylistic traits with some of his other work. Hunt describes the work as having “a pastoral feel,” with melodies “reminiscent of Austrian folk songs.”

Mozart’s celebratory “Tantum ergo,” K. 197, is a setting of a motet text in folk-song style. The simple and charming “Two German Hymns,” K. 343, includes “O Gottes Lamm” in F Major and “Als aus Ägypten” in C Major, the latter based on Psalm 114.

Mapping the Mozart Journey

The St. Charles Singers launched its comprehensive Mozart Journey initiative with the Metropolis Orchestra in January 2010, as a long-range, multiyear celebration of the choir’s 25th anniversary concert season. Believed to be a unique, first-time undertaking for an American choir, the project embraces Mozart’s complete religious choral works, presented in 17 different concert programs at venues in Chicago and the western suburbs, including neighborhoods and cities where the St. Charles Singers had never performed before. The final installment, Mozart Journey XVII, will be performed Aug. 27 and 28, in the choir’s longtime home venue of Baker Church in downtown St. Charles.

Tickets and information

Single admission to Mozart Journey XVI is $40 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students. Group discounts are available.

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 also may be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, depending on availability.

Mozart Journey XVI singers

St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in Mozart Journey XVI include sopranos Jeanne Fornari of Batavia; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Mary Kunstman, Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; Amanda Kohl, Oak Park; and AnDréa James, Karen Rockett and Cynthia Spiegel, all of St. Charles.

Altos are Margaret Fox and Valerie Heinkel-Bollero, both of Batavia; Kelly Grba, Bolingbrook; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Chelsea King and Julie Popplewell, both of North Aurora; Karen Archbold and Rachel Taylor, both of Wheaton; and Debra Wilder, Wheeling.

The tenor section includes Tyler Theis, Aurora; Christopher Jackson, Chicago; Rob Campbell, DeKalb; Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, both of Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, North Aurora; David Hunt, Wayne; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

The bass section comprises Michael Thoms, Aurora; Brandon Fox, Batavia; David Zemke, Bloomingdale; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Nate Coon and Brian Jozwiak, both of Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Chris DiMarco, Naperville; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; Antonio Quaranta, River Grove; and Drayton Eggleson, Sycamore.

Organist 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 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 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, Illinois, in 1984, as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.