Only in America

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On today’s show, Kent Tritle looks at the immense diversity and richness of American choirs. From the intimacy of New York Polyphony to the oomph and virtuosity of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, the Americans have it all. They can be more English than the English, as in the case of St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, or even more avant-garde than the French (!) as in the case of Meredith Monk.  There’s no question that American choruses offer an amazing diversity.

Case in point: the San Francisco male choir Chanticleer: in this week’s show we will hear them singing Josquin des pres and American spirituals. Regardless of the repertoire, Chanticleer always leads with the heart, always goes for an immediate emotional connection with the audience.

Also on the program: Philip Brunelle’s VocalEssence from Minnesota, and the essential American sound of Robert Shaw’s Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.


1. New York Polyphony/Tudor City/track 5 O Come in One to Praise the Lord/Thomas Tallis/NYC/

2. Chanticleer/Mexican Baroque/track 21 Hieremiae Prophetae Lamentationes/Manuel de Zumaya/San Francisco

3. Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Muti/Giuseppe Verdi Requiem/Disc 2 Track 2 Sanctus/Chicago/

4. Musica Sacra, Richard Westenburg/Monk and the Abbess/track 10 Astronaut Anthem/Meredith Monk/NYC

5. Chanticleer/How Sweet the Sound/track 7 Keep Your Hand on the Plow/traditional African-American Spiritual/San Francisco

6. Chanticleer/How Sweet the Sound/track 8 My Soul is a Witness/traditional Gospel/San Francisco

7. Vocal Essence/The Songs We Sang/Track 14 Shenandoah/trad. Arr. James Erb/Minneapolis

8. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Robert Shaw, Arleen Auger, Richard Stillwel/Ein Deutsches Requiem/Brahms/ Ihr habt nun Trauerigkeit, Denn wir haben hie/Atlanta, Ga

Weigh in: Is there a distinct "American sound" among choruses? Tell us what defines it in the comments below.