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Chanticleer opens Ford Center season with classical harmonies





After a summer hiatus, the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is ready to kick off its new season with the best of the best in choral music.

Chanticleer, a Grammy Award-winning, all-male vocal ensemble, will perform at 7 p.m. tonight in the Ford Center. The 12 men tour the country, sharing the a cappella style with audiences of all ages and sizes who simply have a love for music.

Assistant director of marketing for the Ford Center Kate Meacham stays awake at night trying to devise ways to attract attention to shows like Chanticleer, a group that most people not intertwined with the world or choral music have never heard of. 

“The first show of the season, there’s always the bump where we need to get people’s attention again after being off,” Meacham said. “We like to do something recognizable and interesting, but we don’t necessarily want to start with our biggest show.”

Chanticleer visited Oxford over a decade ago, and people have been asking Meacham and the Ford Center staff about their return ever since. With their international reputation preceding them, the buzz around town is slowly growing into excitement over the foreign form of entertainment.

The pregram tonight is entitled “Love Story” and deals with all facets of love, using music as old as the Renaissance period up to the more modern jazz style. While much of the show order has been planned long in advance, this show will give the audience a little more input.

Chanticleer and the Ford Center are allowing the audience to vote on the finale, giving the group a definitive answer by the end of intermission. Meacham hopes that the audience will be able to vote at the beginning of intermission, but voting is available online now at least until the performance.

Beyond the fact that Chanticleer is a highly regarded group, the excitement builds further over the Rebel who sings with the ensemble.

Gregory Peebles, Ole Miss alum from Huntsville, Ala., has been a member of the group since fall of 2008. He slides in with Casey Breves and Kory Reid to fill out the soprano section, the highest part, which is most often performed by women.

After hoping to pursue a career in musical theater, he continually landed jobs in choral music instead. His path changed and eventually, Peebles found himself in San Francisco with Chanticleer.

In the four seasons he’s been with the group, Peebles has been on approximately 40 tours, each lasting about two weeks. While on tour, the group not only performs but also often hosts a master class with music students when they tour takes them to a university, sharing their love for their craft with students who aspire to do the same.

Peebles is excited about his return to his alma mater for the typical reasons of catching up with old friends and reminiscing about life at Ole Miss, but he’s most excited about performing in a space that was only a concept when he graduated in 2000.

“I always thought, ‘Well, I’ll never get a chance to sing in there, unless somehow my career takes off and I come back with a show,’ and here we are now,” Peebles said.

After taking a career change he never foresaw and ending up with one of the best choral groups in existence, Peebles is ready for another chance to perform on the hallow grounds of Ole Miss and introduce the brilliance of Oxford to his fellow group members.

This is only the beginning for the Ford Center this season, and there is nothing short of amazing to come. Chanticleer is expected to open the season with a bang and bring the community back into the world of professional theater with a show that might require patrons to take a risk from the “average.”

“Is it something that everyone’s gonna love? Probably not,” said Meacham. “But people will like it if they take the chance and come to the show.”

Tickets are $29 for orchestra level, $21 for the mezzanine, and can be purchased at the UM Box Office or online at www.olemiss.edu/depts/tickets. For more information or to vote for the finale, visit the Ford Center website at fordcenter.org.