St. Charles Singers to preview international tour program

Concerts near in Wheaton, St. Charles

The acclaimed, mixed-voice chamber choir will perform its season-finale program, “Sing, My Soul,” before taking the music on the road to performances in Spain and Portugal.

The St. Charles Singers and choirmaster Jeffrey Hunt will conclude their 39th season in early June with a preview of the religious choral music they’ll perform on a mid-month concert tour of historic churches in Spain and Portugal.

The mixed-voice chamber choir will perform its season-finale program, “Sing, My Soul,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3, at St. Michael Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave., Wheaton, and 3 p.m. Sunday, June 4, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles.

The program comprises more than a dozen artistically diverse a cappella religious works by American, Canadian and European composers, a news release stated.

“The range of musical colors and textures the audience will hear is pretty amazing,” Hunt said in the release.

The program includes Stacey Gibbs’ “Great God Almighty,” Paul Manz’s “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” Hildegard of Bingen’s “Karitas habundat” (love abounds), Nancy Grundahl’s “Caritas Abundat” and James MacMillan’s “Miserere” (have mercy).

Also David Azurza’s “Ave Virgo Sanctissima” (Hail, Holy Virgin), Herbert Howells’ “Regina Caeli” (Queen of Heaven), Andrew Balfour’s “Vision Chant,” Jake Runestad’s “Let My Love Be Heard,” Charles Ives’ “Psalm 100,” Samuel Barber’s “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God), Morten Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux” (O Light Born), and Elaine Hagenberg’s “Alleluia.”

The choices were inspired by the settings and acoustics of the churches where the choir will sing, as well as a desire to convey diverse cultural perspectives, Hunt said.

“These works take advantage of the reverberant, luminous sound of sacred spaces where choral voices fluidly and gracefully fill the hall,” he said.

A spiritual journey

Five of the works are making their first appearances on a St. Charles Singers concert program.

Based on medieval chant, MacMillan’s “Miserere” is “a tour de force that demands tremendous concentration and vocal stamina from the singers,” Hunt said. Written in 2009, the Scottish composer’s Latin setting of Psalm 51 creates “contrasting moments of great drama and transcendental beauty.” A music critic for the Financial Times described the 10-minute masterwork as having “the flavor of a spiritual journey.”

Azurza is a contemporary composer from Spain’s Basque region. He is also a choirmaster, voice instructor and countertenor, who sings with vocal ensembles specializing in ancient and contemporary music. Hunt says Azurza’s “Ave Virgo Sanctissima” deserves a wider audience.

Originally from Rockford, Runestad is an award-winning composer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His “Let My Love Be Heard” is a setting of an Alfred Noyes poem, “The Prayer.” Runestad says he feels honored that this piece “has helped to provide hope in the darkness of our world.”

A Canadian First Nations composer of Cree descent, Balfour incorporates an Indigenous chant style of singing in his “Vision Chant,” which also includes the Ojibway word for “journey.” The journey begins and ends with a melody sung by the sopranos. The work, with multiple parts for each choir section, has been described as “striking for both its stillness and its intensity.”

Though Ives is among the most revered American classical composers of the early 20th century, his settings of Biblical Psalms are rarely heard. His jubilant “Psalm 100,” which includes the phrase “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” is scored for choir and bells. Seventeen choristers will ring handbells as well as sing, Hunt said.

He added that some pieces are delicacies that haven’t been heard in the choir’s concerts for many years, including Lauridsen’s eerily beautiful “O Nata Lux,” English composer Howells’ “Regina Caeli” for double chorus, and Barber’s “Angus Dei.” It’s his own arrangement of his “Adagio for Strings” from 1936, one of the most popular classical compositions of all time.

The program has a Chicago connection in the late Paul Manz, longtime church music director and educator in the city. His 1953 motet, “E’en so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come,” is the most famous choral work by the noted composer for choir and organ.

Hunt has paired the “Karitas habundat” (love abounds) by medieval German mystic and saint Von Bingen with Minneapolis composer Grundahl’s modern take on von Bingen’s original.

“Sing, My Soul” opens with Stacey Gibbs’ captivating arrangement of the traditional African-American spiritual “Great God Almighty.”

The finale is Hagenberg’s “Alleluia,” written in 2020. It’s a joyous and rhythmic setting of a St. Augustine text that includes the lines: “We shall see and we shall know. / We shall know and we shall love.”

The St. Charles Singers will perform “Sing, My Soul” on tour June 14­–21 in Saville, Carmona, Cádiz and Córdoba in Spain, and Marvão and Lisbon in Portugal.


Single-admission tickets to the “Sing, My Soul” concerts in Wheaton and St. Charles cost $40 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and older, and $10 for students. Group discounts are available.

Tickets and information are available at 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.

Soulful singers

St. Charles Singers ensemble members performing in the “Sing, My Soul” program include sopranos Christina Collins, Arlington Heights; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich and Mary Kunstman, Elburn; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Meredith Taylor Mollica, Naperville; AnDréa James and Cynthia Spiegel, St. Charles; and Karen Rockett, West Chicago.

Alto voices are Valerie Bollero and Margaret Fox, Batavia; Kelly Grba, Bolingbrook; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Jennifer Gingrich, Naperville; Chelsea King and Julie Popplewell, North Aurora; Rachel Taylor, Wheaton; and Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills.

The tenor section includes Christopher Jackson, Crystal Lake; Robert Campbell, DeKalb; Bryan Kunstman and Bradley Staker, Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, North Aurora; Nicholas Falco, Schaumburg; and David Hunt, Wayne.

Basses are Brandon Fox, Batavia; Douglas Peters, Chicago; Brian Jozwiak, Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; Stephen Uhl, Glen Ellyn; Chris DiMarco, Naperville; Michael Popplewell, North Aurora; and Aaron James, St. Charles.

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 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.

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