One of the coolest treasures on the Cal campus -- right up there with the dinosaur bones in the basement of the Campanile and the Mark Twain papers at the Bancroft Library -- is the UC Chamber Chorus, a unique town/gown collaboration between students, alumni and townspeople.

The Chamber Chorus isn't as well known as the dinosaur bones and the Twain papers -- at least, not outside the music world. But inside that world it's very highly regarded indeed. Critics keep falling over each other reaching for new ways to praise them.

The San Francisco Classical Voice calls them "flawless." The New York Times calls them "first-rate." The San Jose Mercury News says they are "arguably the area's pre-eminent collegiate ensemble." And the San Francisco Examiner says they "left no syllable unarticulated and no musical marvel unexplored." The Chamber Chorus has regularly collaborated with renowned local and international artists such as the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Mark Morris Dance Company, and Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen.

And now they have been invited to perform on March 21 at the most prestigious musical venue of all — Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. They haven't finalized the program yet, but it will definitely feature Berkeley composers. You can hear the Chamber Chorus before then at two local concerts they're planning that will raise money for the trip.


Advertisement

The first concert, in collaboration with the Cal University Chorus, will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way (at Dana) in Berkeley, featuring some soulful music by Randall Thompson and Eric Whitacre as well as the Duruflé Requiem, the world premiere of Brantley Psalm 89, and the Bay Area premiere of John Tavener's hauntingly beautiful Funeral Canticle (the a cappella piece heard in "The Tree of Life"). The great Jonathan Dimmock will be the guest organist.

Tickets are $16 for general admission, $12 for students and seniors and are available at the door, by phone (510-642-9988) or online at http://tickets.berkeley.edu.

Then, on Dec. 8, the Chamber Chorus will appear at Orinda Community Church, 10 Irwin Way in Orinda, for a Sunday afternoon performance of Handel's Messiah, Part I, after which the audience will be invited to sing along to the "Hallelujah Chorus" and festive holiday carols. (Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't it?) That concert starts at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 (seniors/students) and $20 (general admission) and are available at the door. For more information, email univchorus@gmail.com.

But wait! There's more! The Chamber Chorus, the University Chorus, and a guest Baroque ensemble will also perform Handel's Messiah, Part I (including the "Hallelujah Chorus") at a FREE concert Dec. 4 at Hertz Hall on the Cal campus. This performance, part of the Cal Music Department's long-standing tradition of presenting free noontime concerts, starts at 12:15 p.m. All three venues are cozy and intimate, and they all have wonderful acoustics.

If you can't make any of the local concerts but would still like to help defray the expenses of the Chamber Chorus' trip to New York for the Carnegie Hall gig, you can contribute online at givetocal.berkeley.edu/chamberchorus or send a check made out to "UC Berkeley Foundation," with "Chamber Chorus" on the memo line, to the Cal Music Department at 104 Morrison Hall, #1200/Berkeley, CA 94720-1200.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@sunset.net.