St. Charles Singers will herald the holidays with music for voice and harp December 2-4

The St. Charles Singers, the renowned mixed-voice chamber choir led by founder and conductor Jeffrey Hunt, will present a new edition of their annual Candlelight Carols program December 2-4, featuring, according to Hunt, “the celestial sounds of the harp.”

The harpist is Erin Freund, who is making her concert debut with the St. Charles Singers.

“Most of the music will be new to the choir,” Hunt said. “We look forward to exploring these beautiful works for the first time and sharing them with our audience.”

In creating the program, Hunt says he looked for “tracks that contrast and work well with each other while providing a variety of moods, textures and tempos that will delight listeners.”

The St. Charles Singers will perform Candlelight Carols at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 2 at St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 310 S. Wheaton Ave. at Wheaton; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut St. in Chicago; and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4 at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Avenue in St. Charles.

Harp! The herald angels sing

The harp will be heard in 10 of the program’s 18 seasonal gems, which include original compositions and arrangements: “Lullay My Liking” by Stephen Chatman, “The Oxen” by Marjorie Hess, “El Rorro” by Jeffrey Van, “The Friendly Beasts” by Lee R. Kesselman. “, “The Cherry Tree Carol” by Paul Halley, “Angels’ Carol” and “Joseph’s Carol” by John Rutter, “The Rose” by Ola Gjeilo and “Wishes and Candles” by Stephen Paulus.


Paulus’ piece, which includes the lyrics “one wish for every candle we light”, was composed for the 1998 Christmas tree lighting at Lincoln Center in New York City.

“The Cherry Tree Carol” by Halley is a 2019 arrangement of a traditional English and Appalachian American folk song written for voice, guitar and percussion (shaker and bodhran), with harp instead of organ.

On the program, a work for solo harp: “Six Noëls pour la Harpe”, op. 32.

Freund, the concert harpist, is an assistant professor of music at Augustana College. She holds a Doctor of Music, a performance certificate and a Master of Music from Northwestern University, where she studied with former Chicago Lyric Opera principal harpist Elizabeth Cifani. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music under the guidance of internationally renowned harpist Yolanda Kondonassis.

In addition to her recitals and orchestras, Freund has performed extensively with choirs.

Harpist Erin Freund will make her concert debut with St. Charles Singers subscription as part of the annual Candlelight Carols program from December 2-4.
– Courtesy of St. Charles Singers

A cappella songs

The a cappella program includes “Gloria in excelsis Deo” by English Renaissance composer Thomas Weelkes, “Lully, Lulla, Lullay” by Philip Stopford, “Mother’s Song” by Jocelyn Hagen, “Magnificat” by René Clausen, “Christ is born by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. on Christmas Day” and “How Unto Bethlehem”, and David Wilcocks’ “Silent Night”, a holiday staple of St. Charles Singers, with an additional verse arranged by choral composer Robert A. Boyd of Westmont, Illinois.

Hunt combines the songs of Stopford and Hagen into a set. Both are deeply moving works written from a mother’s perspective.

Stopford’s Lullaby is a contemporary version of a centuries-old verse, set in biblical times, in which a mother laments the fate of her young son under King Herod’s decree that all male babies must be you are.

Hagen’s tranquil and richly harmonic work is a 2020 setting of an anonymous Japanese text in which a mother wishes for the comfort and safety of her child. The score calls for the choir to sing in a “warm and inviting” manner.

holiday singers

Thirty-seven members of the St. Charles Singers will perform in Candlelight Carols.

The sopranos include: Jeanne Fornari of Batavia; Ingrid Burrichter, Chicago; Marybeth Kurnat, DeKalb; Jessica Heinrich, Elburn; Karen Rockett, Glendale Heights; Laura Johnson, Hanover Park; Jennifer Gingrich and Meredith Taylor Mollica, both of Naperville; and Andrea James and Cynthia Spiegel, both of St. Charles.

The alto section includes: Christina Collins of Arlington Heights; Margaret Fox, Batavia; Nicole Tolentino, Carol Stream; Bridget Kancler, Chicago; Chelsea King, North Aurora; Jennifer Hunt, St. Charles; Debra Wilder, Vernon Hills; and Karen Archbold and Rachel Taylor, both of Wheaton.

The tenors will be: Tyler Theis, Aurora; Rob Campbell, De Kalb; Bradley Staker, Elburn; Marcus Jansen, Geneva; Jonathan Cramer, Gurnee; Stephen Mollica, Naperville; Gregor King, Aurora North; David Hunt, Wayne; and Steve Williamson, West Chicago.

Bass vocals include: Michael Thoms, Aurora; Brandon Fox, Batavia; David Zemke, Bloomingdale; Nate Coon and Brian Jozwiak, both of Crystal Lake; Jess Koehn, Downers Grove; David Hartley, Lake in the Hills; Michael Popplewell, Aurora North; and Antonio Quaranta, River Grove.

Single-entry tickets to “Candlelight Carols” are $40, $35 for those 65 or 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 Townhouse Books, 105 N. Second Ave., St. Charles (check or cash only at this counter).

Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the day of the concert, subject to availability.

Founded and directed by Jeffrey Hunt, the St. Charles Singers is a chamber choir dedicated to choral music in all its forms.

Hailed by the American Record Guide as “a national treasure,” the mixed-voice ensemble includes professional singers, choir directors, and voice teachers, some of whom perform with other leading Chicago choirs.

Classics Today called the ensemble “one of North America’s outstanding choirs”, citing “first-rate charisma and musicianship” that “brings character and excitement to every piece”. The Chicago Tribune described the St. Charles Singers as “beautifully disciplined, beautifully responsive” and proclaimed, “Chamber choir singing doesn’t get much better than this.”

Prominent guest conductors of the St. Charles Singers include renowned English composer John Rutter, founder of the Cambridge Singers; Philip Moore, composer and former music director of York Minster Cathedral in England; and Craig Hella Johnson, Grammy Award-winning American choral conductor. The choir was started in St. Charles, Illinois, in 1984 as the Mostly Madrigal Singers.

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