Little did William Fred Scott know that a conducting gig with Chanticleer back in the ’90s would one day lead to him serving as the Music Director of the organization. The group brings their new work “Trade Winds” to town Oct. 25.
Referred to as the “world’s reigning male chorus,” Chanticleer began in 1978 and recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Founder Louis A. Botto, who studied musicology and was fascinated by Renaissance choral music, gathered a group of friends together and wondered if he could create a male chorus who could sing soprano, alto, tenor and bass. The answer was yes. The group began touring around the country and internationally and in 1981 began releasing their recordings. Chanticleer has won two Grammy Awards and sold over a million albums.
They perform almost exclusively a cappella and classical music. Scott, who is gay, has been the Music Director since 2015. The chorus has a combination of gay and straight members among its ensemble of 12, four of whom have been with Chanticleer 15 years. “The appeal is the charisma that 12 men on stage have,” says Scott. “It’s very convincing and natural.”
“Trade Winds” was commissioned last year and has been performed around the world. Scott calls it a fascinating show, one that fits perfectly with the group’s mission. “Every year we put together two programs that go on the road,” he says. “One is a totally religious program – which this one is not – and the other is a soup to nuts program that has some religion. That has been our DNA. These programs wind up with some pop songs and some spirituals and they are built on a theme. ‘Trade Winds’ is an homage to our Pacific Rim neighbors. In San Francisco, there is such an influx of Pacific Rim populations and ethnicities that we are aware of our brothers and sisters from Australia and New Zealand and Samoa and the Philippines and Japan and China and Hawaii.”
Among its themes, “Trade Winds” deals with travel, waves, wind, love, and loss. The program contains some Renaissance music songs, some prayers, and folk songs.
A native of Thomasville, Georgia, Scott served as the Associate Conductor of the Atlanta Symphony from 1981-1988 and was offered the job by legendary conductor/chorus director Robert Shaw. Working with Shaw was an amazing experience, Scott admits. When Shaw passed, Scott led the popular “Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony” for six years. Next up for him was a seven-year tenure with the Atlanta Opera, serving as the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, and then five years as Director of Choral Music at the Westminster Schools in Atlanta.
He calls Atlanta his home but spends 30 weeks a year in San Francisco, where Chanticleer is based. “It’s kind of a ridiculous commute,” he laughs, but he loves what he does. It’s always special to bring Chanticleer to his hometown. “Chanticleer has always had a nice response from audiences in Atlanta even before I had anything to do with them. It’s lovely to come back and have family and friends – even students from Westminster – come to the concert.”
Chanticleer’s “Trade Winds”
8pm on Oct. 25
Sandy Springs Performing Arts Centre