There's much more to the choral music scene in Cleveland than the annual spate of holiday-themed concerts and sing-alongs. Cleveland boasts a remarkable array of choral groups led by amateurs and Ivy League scholars who perform everything from medieval canons to cutting-edge works by local composers.
The Cleveland Chamber Choir has included at least one living composer in each of its programs since it began giving concerts two years ago. Upcoming concerts on Nov. 11 and 12 at Lakewood UMC and St. Paul's Episcopal Church, respectively, will include music by Cleveland composer Andrew Rindfleisch. The group previously collaborated with Rindfleisch on its debut concert in 2015. Since then, music director Scott MacPherson has made a point of programming works that run the gamut from Renaissance motets to brand-new compositions, often by local composers.
The West Shore Chorale is offering a free, traditional program titled, "Hymns, Folksongs and Spirituals" at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at St. Mel Catholic Church. The program will include classic spiritual arrangements by Moses Hogan and Alice Parker. Secular selections will span the American folk tradition from Stephen Foster all the way to '70s folk-rocker Carly Simon.
At 4 p.m. on Oct. 29, Quire Cleveland will reprise its program, "Wondrous Rounds and Canons" at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Akron. The popular program showcases the enormous variety of expression composers from William Byrd to Johannes Brahms have teased out of a seemingly trivial musical form. Closer to home, Quire will perform an evening of music by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell at Lake Erie College on Oct. 5. Artistic director and renowned early music scholar Ross W. Duffin will lead both concerts in mostly a cappella selections. For the occasional organ accompaniment, Quire will welcome back its first music director, Peter Bennett.
Cleveland's Baroque orchestra, Apollo's Fire, is turning 25 years old this year. The orchestra and its choral offshoot, Apollo's Singers, will perform several times this October at venues in Akron, Shaker Heights, Beachwood, Avon Lake and elsewhere. On Oct. 12 to 15, the chorus and orchestra will be joined by four soloists for a performance of George Friedrich Handel's oratorio, "Israel in Egypt." Rabbi Roger Klein of Temple-Tifereth Israel will give a pre-concert lecture at each performance on the story of the Israelites' escape from Egypt. The Friday and Saturday performances will be followed by a Q&A and a chance to mingle with Apollo's Fire musicians, all while munching on Middle Eastern baklava and sipping sparkling cider. A Sunday brunch sneak preview of the program will take place at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights on Oct. 8 at 12:30 p.m.
Apollo's Fire is also launching its new Community Access Initiative this fall. The program includes free tickets for students the day of a performance, and a limited supply of $12 Presto Seats that go on sale three weeks before a given concert date.
From Nov. 9 to 12, a pared down Apollo's Fire will accompany tenor Nicholas Phan in four performances of a program called "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." A consort of strings and lutes will join Phan for classic songs by John Dowland, Thomas Morley and Henry Purcell. Lutenist Daniel Shoskes will give a pre-concert talk one hour before each concert. The free post-concert event following the Friday concert will complement the evening's theme with English pub treats like cider, ale and tarts. And, as usual, there will be a chance to meet and greet the talented musicians of Apollo's Fire.
After November, the vast majority of choral concerts look ahead to the holiday season. Choral Arts Cleveland will perform works by Heinrich Schutz and John Rutter at Disciples Christian Church on Sunday, Dec. 17. The North Coast Men's Chorus dons its gay apparel two weeks earlier with "Under the Mistletoe" in the Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square. There will be a matinee and evening performance on Saturday, Dec. 2, and then another matinee on Sunday.