Your Chicago guide to the Allegri Miserere

Holy Week is upon us.  Concerts are in retreat while Chicago’s singing professionals enter a span of intense gigging. If you work a day job with one of these wretched lot, don’t be alarmed if you find them asleep at their desks, their Throat Coat tea growing cold.

The good news (also the Good News) is that audiences/congregations can experience some of the best polyphony of the sacred canon in exchange for whatever one is willing to put in the offertory baskets.  This time of year, few pieces are as anticipated and beloved as the early Italian baroque Miserere of Gregorio Allegri for choir and solo quartet replete with harmonized chant, crunchy suspensions, and one treble voice vaulting to a high C. There are 20 verses of the psalm which, when performed complete, demands five of those exposed first Cantus high C’s and may fill up a quarter hour of your Holy Wednesday or Good Friday service.   Here is a rundown of the places and people serving up what we want this week.

Wednesday
St. Mary of Perpetual Help, Bridgeport, 7:30pm Tenebrae service with the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle; Cantus I – Patty Kennedy, founding member of the lady-band La Caccina.

St. Clement Church, Lincoln Park, 7:30 Tenebrae service with the Schola Clementis; Cantus I – Clara Teall, who gets to sing her high C’s at A=415 tuning.

Holy Name Cathedral, Downtown, 7:30pm Tenebrae service with the Schola Cantorum Cathedralis; Cantus I – Katherine Gray Noon (with countertenor Thomas Aláan singing the Mozart Laudate Dominum as a bizarre mash-up descant over the Allegri – which sounds amazing to TEoVAC).

Friday
St. Gregory the Great, Andersonville, 7pm Liturgy of Good Friday with the Parish Choir; Cantus I – Laura Pinto, who was a divine La Musique in Vox3 Collective’s Les Arts Florissants.

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Downtown, 7:30pm Choral Service with the Chancel Choir; Cantus I – Laura Perkett, oboist/soprano and founder of CHAI Collaborative Ensemble.

Church of the Ascension, Near North, 7pm Liturgy of Good Friday with the Ascension Choir; Cantus I – Alexandra Olsavsky of Artemisia and a VAC favorite.  

St. Luke’s, Evanston, 7:30pm Liturgy of Good Friday with the St. Luke’s Choir; Cantus I – William Lewis, the only boy treble of the lot. Master Lewis is the ripe old age of 13, so this may be his last opportunity to be the worthy rival of the fantastic sopranos listed above. Last September, William Lewis brought the Editor of VAC to tears singing Purcell’s “Thou tun’st this world” with Bella Voce.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus offers a Holy Week-themed program conducted by Charles Dutoit. The Fauré Requiem featuring Matthias Goerne is coupled with Wagner’s “Good Friday” music from Parsifal and the Honegger “Liturgique” Symphpny No. 3. The German baritone has become ubiquitous at Symphony Center. Israeli soprano Chen Reiss is the soprano soloist.

And after you have had your fill of Pie Jesu and High C’s, why not make your Good Friday better at Liederstube?  Eugenia Cheng’s second book Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics was just published and with her compulsory publicity engagements it is not clear when the next regular Liederstube will occur – typically the second Friday of the month in studio 721 of the Fine Arts Building.