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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Chicago Artists Chorale reveals 'Variations'
by Skylar Baker-Jordan

This article shared 4421 times since Wed Dec 2, 2015
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Most people don't immediately associate the poetry of Robert Frost with Christmas. The Chicago Artists Chorale hopes to change that with its upcoming winter concert, "The Frost Variations."

It is the third concert for the chorale, which last year began as a way for local theater artists to come together and celebrate their love of music. Tom Vendafreddo and Devin DeSantis were starring in a production of Godspell at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire when they began to reminisce on their days in high school choirs. Deciding they missed performing in a chorus, they decided to create one of their own.

"We realized the only way to make that happen is to do it ourselves," DeSantis said. Setting out to build a choir of the "incredibly talented people" who work in the Chicago theater community, Vendafreddo and DeSantis got together with Lauren Iezzi and DeSantis' husband, Stephen Schellhardt, to hold the first round of auditions. And while they were surprised by the turnout—the group has held steady at around 60 members since its founding—they understood why people were so eager to join.

"As artists, we're everyday working on such elaborate musical theater productions," Vendafreddo, the chorale's artistic director, said. "So to come to a place once a week where we strip away all of the extra stuff and we just focus on the music, and we focus on the art of singing in an ensemble, I think helps everybody that's involved."

DeSantis, who serves as associate artistic director, agreed. "It's sort of a different outlet than being in theatre. It keeps our craft alive. I found just in the last year that my musical skills have really beefed up because of it." This, and the revolving membership, is hugely beneficial to the actors, directors, designers, and stage managers who make up the chorale, he says, noting that the nature of the business means those available for one concert may not be available for another.

The Chicago Artists Chorale hasn't just been met with a great response from the theater community, though. Audiences have responded positively too, despite not being prepared for what the Chorale had to offer. "It's been a great turnout," DeSantis said. "People came and thought we were a group of theatre kids getting together to sing choir. I think they expected us to sing The Music Man or just do some sort of group ensemble. Then they came in and we were singing… just really choral music that they didn't quite expect. And it really surprised people."

Next month, the chorale returns with the music of Randall Thompson, a 20th-century composer who is most famous for his choral works. Frostiana turns seven of Robert Frosts' most well-known poems into haunting classical choral art songs.

"It's become really important piece of choral music," Vendafreddo said. "It's a really celebrated set of songs." From "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" to the "Road Not Taken," "it's a really nice, warm and rich choice for the winter season."

The concert will feature both the music of Thompson and more traditional Christmas fare, something Vendafreddo said is a response to audience suggestions. The focus, though, will be firmly on the choral music. "People can come expecting certain things, and then we slap them across the face with Robert Frost poetry," DeSantis said, laughing.

Stripping everything back to just a choir is important for their creative vision, Vendafreddo said. "The thing that strikes me the most is that as artists we're everyday working on such elaborate musical theatre productions, and they incorporate music and dance and big scenery and all of this stuff. So to come to a place once a week where we strip away all of the extra stuff and we just focus on the music and we focus on the art of singing in an ensemble, I think helps everybody that's involved."

That includes the audience. "We had a conversation last week, as a chorale, after the attacks in Paris. Chorale music is something I think people need. I think it's a necessity," Vendafreddo added.

"If more people around the world just chose to volunteer their time and get together and sing every once in a while, I think we would live on a much happier planet, a much more peaceful planet."

The Chicago Artists Chorale will present its winter concert, "Frost Variations," Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Nettelhorst School, 3252 N. Broadway. Tickets are $25 for the general public, and $10 for students, children and those in the theater industry. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Prices increase $5 at the door.

This article shared 4421 times since Wed Dec 2, 2015
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