Chanticleer, the virtuoso all-male vocal ensemble, has recorded a broad spectrum of pieces, from esoteric Baroque Mexican liturgical music to the avant-garde to pop hits. Perhaps their oddest foray into odd repertoire is among their most innocuous-sounding: â€œHoliday cheer, a suite of seasonal songs,â€ from their new album, Let it snow. The first item in the medley is â€œJingle Bells,â€ one of the most blandly cheerful holiday selections. The listener is carried merrily along by the perky introduction until -- suddenly -- what are all these intensely dissonant crashing chords and whooping horn glissandi? The voices then enter over the orchestral cacophony happily singing a traditional version of â€œJingle Bells.â€ The astute listener is compelled to ask, â€œAm I imagining things?â€ and hit the skip back button to replay the astonishing passage, and sure enough, there are the staccato, accented chords from the beginning of â€œAugurs of spring: Dances of the young girls,â€ from The Rite of Spring, overlaid with the horn whoops from the end of the section, and a harp glissando from who knows where. By the time the singers have gotten to â€œBells on bobtail ring, making spirits bright â€¦,â€ the accompaniment has morphed seamlessly into a traditional version. To let you know that you werenâ€™t in fact hallucinating, the arrangers, Buryl Red and Joseph Joubert, throw in the Stravinsky again at the climax of the medleyâ€™s final song, â€œWe wish you a merry Christmas.â€ What does it all mean? Maybe the arrangers want to remind you that spring is right around the corner (along with orgiastic dancing and sacrificial maidens.)
AMGâ€™s 30-second sound sample unfortunately doesnâ€™t capture this particular moment from the track, so to hear it youâ€™ll need to get your hands on the CD yourself. You shouldnâ€™t be disappointed, though -- some of the arrangements are traditional and some are almost as loopy as the medley, and the singing is terrific throughout.