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Members of the Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble (photo courtesy of the ensemble).
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The Chicago Gargoyle Brass and Organ Ensemble and St. Charles Singers will headline a concert titled "Transfigured Shakespeare" at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 11, 2018, at Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, 307 Cedar Ave., St. Charles, Ill.
Highlights will include the world premiere of a brass-and-organ arrangement of trail-blazing composer Arnold Schoenberg’s sublime, late-Romantic tone poem Transfigured Night and the second-ever performance of Peter Meechan’s Love Songs (Shakespeare) for brass quintet, organ, choir, and narrator.
The concert, presented by the Fox Valley Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and open to the public, will be the first collaboration between the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble and the St. Charles Singers.
Written in 1899 for string sextet and later transcribed for string orchestra, Schoenberg’s late-Romantic Transfigured Night (Verklärte Nacht) is based on a poem about a young couple on a bright, moonlit walk early in their relationship. That walk reveals betrayal, forgiveness and acceptance that come to define the emotional arc of the piece, from despair to joy. The new brass-and-organ version was arranged by Craig Garner and commissioned by the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble.
Another Chicago Gargoyle commission, Love Songs (Shakespeare) is a half-hour neo-Romantic work in four movements for brass quintet, organ, choir, and narrator inspired by four of William Shakespeare’s poems on love. Movements are titled “Lost Love,” “Love’s Betrayal,” “Love’s Dream,” and “Love’s Ideal.” Each includes the complete text of a Shakespeare sonnet (a 14-line poem) and reflects on love from a different perspective: despair, lust, infatuation, and fidelity.
“In two of the movements, the St. Charles Singers will sing sonnets to instrumental accompaniment. In the others, Joseph Jefferson Award-winning Chicago actor Kevin Gudahl will read sonnets over a background of instrumental music, similar to what’s heard in Aaron Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait,” says Rodney Holmes, artistic director of the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble.
A stage, screen, and TV veteran, Gudahl has performed in more than 30 Chicago Shakespeare Theater productions, including title roles in Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra. International appearances include five seasons with Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
Stephen Squires, resident conductor of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, will conduct Love Songs (Shakespeare) as well as the brass and organ works.
The Chicago Gargoyle ensemble gave the world-premiere of the work February 10 in Oak Park, Ill., the work’s only other performance.
Another nod to Old England, for brass and organ alone, is the concert’s brief opening piece, Bedřich Smetana’s Fanfares for Shakespeare’s Richard III, arranged by Craig Garner. The Gargoyles will also play Garner’s Gargoyle-commissioned arrangement of Gustav Holst’s Song Without Words, I'll Love My Love.
Jeffrey Hunt, choirmaster and founder of the St. Charles Singers, will lead his mixed-voice ensemble in a set of unaccompanied choral works including Herbert Howells’ Magnificat Collegium Regale, the Kyrie from Ildebrando Pizzetti’s Messa di Requiem, and Benjamin Britten’s virtuosic Hymn to St. Cecilia for five-part choir and soloists, from 1942, with text by poet W. H. Auden.
Single tickets for "Transfigured Shakespeare" are $20 adult general admission, $15 seniors, and free for those 18 and younger. Tickets are available at gargoylebrass.com and at the door. For additional information, call the Chicago Gargoyle ensemble’s Rodney Holmes at (708) 975-0055.