A Chicagoland guide to Allegri's Miserere


Holy Week is upon us.  Concerts are in retreat while Chicago’s singing professionals enter a span of intense gigging. Be nice to the singers in your life. They won’t sleep well until Sunday night and many of them will decline alcohol when it is most needed this week.

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.

Saints Faith, Hope & Charity, Winnetka, 7pm Tenebrae service. This is the only Tuesday offering of which VAC is aware. A volunteer choir. Soprano Angela Zúñiga has her Masters from DePaul School of Music and sang with Vox 3 Collective.

Jenny Haworth and Joelle Kross

Jenny Haworth and Joelle Kross

St. Clement Church, Lincoln Park, 7:30pm Tenebrae service with the Schola Clementis; Cantus I – Clara Teall, who studied vocal performance at DePaul. I am unfamiliar with Teall’s voice, but St. Clement has the ideal acoustic for Miserere.

Holy Name Cathedral, Downtown, 7pm Tenebrae service with the Schola Cantorum Cathedralis; Cantus I – Katherine Gray Noon. Katherine has been a gleaming, stalwart musician at the cathedral for two decades.

St. John Cantius, River West, 7:30pm Tenebrae service directed by Rev. Scott A. Haynes, one of the city’s most venerable spaces and music ministries. Soprano Jenny Haworth, beloved in the professional singer circuit, is Cantus I for the Miserere. Disclaimer: Haworth was once my muse for the now defunct The Opera Company. She is a superior musician, a compelling actor, and can physically do just about anything a director would want while not sacrificing tone quality.

St. Thomas the Apostle, Hyde Park, 7pm Tenebrae service in Latin. Soprano Joelle Kross sings Cantus I in the Allegri. I recently heard Kross as Blonde in CVAC’s read-through of The Abduction from the Seraglio conducted by Alexandra Enyart. Kross has a colorful, old-school soubrette timbre, reminiscent of Graziella Sciutti or Reri Grist, perfect for Sandman, Despina, and in a few years, Zerbinetta.

William Lewis and Alexandra Olsavsky

William Lewis and Alexandra Olsavsky

Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, 12pm and 7pm Good Friday worship with the Senior Choir directed by Cantor Michael D. Costello. Ngaire Bull, a reliable and youthful sounding soprano on the Chicago Choral Artists’ roster, has the distinction of being the only artist on this list who sings ten high C’s.

Church of the Ascension, Near North, 7pm Liturgy of Good Friday with the Ascension Choir directed by Benjamin Rivera; Cantus I – Alexandra Olsavsky of Artemisia. I can think of only a few more sopranos whose musicality and intelligence are matched by solid singing technique. I have heard this woman convincingly shift from singing in the depressed laryngeal Georgian style to pure-toned Renaissance polyphony to belty boy band pop IN THE SAME PERFORMANCE. She is a phenomenon and an intimidating sight-reader.

St. Luke’s, Evanston, 7:30pm Liturgy of Good Friday with the St. Luke’s Choir; Cantus I – William Lewis, one of the few local singers who can instantly reduce me to tears. This will probably be the last time Lewis will be able to sing this part. Time is a thief.