Review: A musical trip down Mission Road

Throughout its 30-year history, Chanticleer has performed many concerts in The City’s own Mission Dolores. But the award-winning male chorus has seldom sounded so vibrant — or so at home — as it did there Monday evening, performing a program of 18th-century works specifically composed for events in and around California missions.

With “El Camino Real: Chanticleer Travels the Mission Road,” audiences can hear music just as it would have been performed 200 years ago in these great historic monuments. The program, which closes Chanticleer’s 30th anniversary season, is being repeated this week with stops in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Fremont, and a final performance in San Francisco on Friday.

Monday’s 70-minute concert, performed without intermission, was a fascinating mix of Mass settings, devotional music and songs for feast days by composers including Juan Bautista Sancho, who was born in Mallorca and came to California by way of Mexico, and Mexican-born Manuel de Sumaya, who is often described as America’s Handel.

Credit music scholar Craig Russell and Chanticleer music director Joseph Jennings for painstakingly reconstructing and arranging the works, which included excerpts from Sancho’s large-scale “Misa en sol” (“Mass in G”), a selection of Sumaya’s “villancios” (church songs composed in folk tradition), and music for parades and processionals by anonymous composers.

One thing’s certain: a 21st-century audience will never hear a better performance of this music. The 12 men of Chanticleer applied their considerable vocal skills to the program, placing all of the qualities that have earned the group multiple awards and accolades — radiant tone, pointed dynamics and a smooth ensemble blend — on lavish display.

Accompanied by a small continuo group whichincluded Zachary Carrettin and Adam Lamotte (violins), Paul Hale (cello), Jennifer Sayre (harp) and Richard Savino (guitar), the music took on the unmistakable glow of authenticity.

Highlights included the gentle (and uncredited) ode to St. Joseph, “Para dar luz immortal” (“To give immortal light”), and the buoyant settings of Sumaya’s “De las flores” (“Of the flowers”) and “Aprended Roses” (“Learn, Roses”).

The movements from Sancho’s Mass were impressive, particularly the “Kyrie,” which featured the exquisitely intertwined voices of soloists Cortez Mitchell and Adam Ward.

Best of all was the slow, majestic, infinitely touching recessional, “Dulce Esposo de Maria.” In Mission Dolores, it sounded ravishing. To a weary 18th-century traveler on the Mission Road, it must have sounded a little bit like heaven.

IF YOU GO

El Camino Real: Chanticleer Travels the Mission Road

Where: Mission Dolores, 3321 16th St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $25 to $44

Contact: (415) 392-4400; www.chanticleer.org

More 8 p.m. performances

Tuesday: Holy Cross Church, 126 High St., Santa Cruz

Wednesday: Mission Santa Clara, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

Thursday: Mission San Jose, 43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont

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