Wondrous Free

Chanticleer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday, April 15.

I thought I knew exactly what would be on Chanticleer’s program of American choral music: a few shape-note hymns, some folk songs and spirituals, one or two works by big twentieth-century names such as Barber or Copland, and another couple of pieces the choir itself has commissioned over the years. I was right, to a degree—those were all on the program—but I foolishly underestimated the choir’s bent toward venturing past standard repertory.

In addition to the expected selections, Chanticleer sought out traditional seventeenth-century liturgical music written by immigrants to New Spain and also featured a striking work by Brent Michael Davids, an American Indian composer who draws heavily on indigenous musical traditions. Even the “folk songs and spirituals,” my careless catch-all, proved more varied in style than I had so casually anticipated. Taken together, the mix beautifully accomplished what must have been the goal: to celebrate just how wildly diverse America’s musical heritage truly is.