Chicago Chicago: Annotated Program Notes

Sep 17, 2018

"Chicago, Chicago" with Geoffrey Baer

October 2018

Chicago, Chicago traces the history of our great city through song.  Enjoy this sneak preview of the songs included, along with some historical background for each:

Traditional Fr. Canadian, arr. Miller: C'est l'aviron
This is a song of the French voyageurs who explored the Great Lakes, including what is now Chicago, and traded with Native Americans;  it was sung as early as the 1690s and was one of the most popular songs at the settlement of Michilimackinac, now Mackinac Island.  The song sings of "going up," which is what they called paddling from "Lower Canada" (Montreal and Toronto, along the St. Lawrence) to "Upper Canada" (points west).  Read more about the early fur trade around Chicago.

Traditional, arr. Bustin/Dalglish/Larsen/Miller:  Shawneetown
Before Chicago became a huge metropolis, the way most Anglos traveled to Illinois was down the Ohio River, where they would cross at Shawneetown or Shawnee Ferry.  This is a folksong from the Ohio Valley, telling people about life on the river, floating down and paddling back up to pursue trade, including the narrator's three women in different ports!

Traditional, arr. Zanzig: El-A-Noy
Like any area wanting to grow, Illinois had its early "boosters," who wrote this song painting an idyllic picture of the state's glories.  The verse about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon visiting the state is hilarious.   Read the complete lyrics to El-a-Noy.

Barry Moore, arr. Nick Page: City of Chicago
The Irish immigrants came in waves following the Great Potato Famine.  This is a recent folksong about the Irish coming to Chicago and what they endured, both on the journey and when they got here.

Johannes Brahms: Die Wollust in den Maien
Germans were one of the major immigrant groups in Chicago's early history. This is a song that would likely have been performed by their many singing societies. 

Spiritual, arr. Allan Koepke: Follow the drinking gourd
The Chicago area, including Maywood and Graue Mill in what is now Hinsdale, were stops on the Underground Railroad. This is a slave song/spiritual that helped to tell runaway slaves how to get across the Ohio River to freedom.

Trad., arr. Shaw/Parker:  Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier
The Civil War hit Chicago hard, as it did the entire nation.  This haunting folk tune laments the men going off to war, including some 36,000 from the Chicago area who enlisted and were sent into battle. 

Samuel Ward and Katharine Lee Bates, arr. Deke Sharon: America the Beautiful
As the city emerged into greatness, this song became an emblem of national pride;  the verse about "alabaster cities' gleam" refers to the White City in the Columbian Exposition of 1892-93.

Sturges/Schleiffarth, arr. Miller:  Song of the Ferris Wheel
George Ferris's wheel constructed at the Columbian Exposition was 30 stories tall and was meant to rival the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed visitors to the Paris World’s Fair four years earlier. This charming waltz celebrated the astounding attraction.

Fred Fisher, arr. Miller: Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)
The great tune popularized by Sinatra gets a new a cappella setting here, including all of the original words.


Jerry Troxell, text of Carl Sandburg:  Prayers of Steel
Carl Sandburg wrote odes to skyscrapers, and Jerry Troxell's haunting composition perfectly illuminates Sandburg's awe at beholding the stark urban beauty of Chicago's new downtown area.

arr. Gwyneth Walker:  This Train
The Great Migration of black Southerners to the north between World War I and 1970 was one of the largest movements of a people in history.  Many bought a ticket on the Illinois Central railroad and ended up in Chicago, perhaps with this spiritual in their minds.

Lovie Austin, arr. J. Miller: Chicago Bound Blues
Chicago has become synonymous with the blues.  This is a song written by Chicagoan Lovie Austin and made popular by Bessie Smith, in a new a cappella version, the lament of a woman left behind in Mississippi.

Thomas Dorsey, arr. Sevier: Precious Lord
In the 1930s, Thomas A. Dorsey created gospel music, and this is his most famous song, in a stunning arrangement by Chicago's own Arnold Sevier.

Traditional Mexican, arr. Ramón Noble: Las Manañitas
The large Mexican-American community in Chicago began to grow in earnest after 1910.  This is the traditional song (in the famous arrangement by Ramón Noble) sung at birthdays and celebrations here ever since Mexicans began moving here in the early 20th century.

Traditional Polish, arr. Sykulski: Goralu, czi ci nie zal
Poles immigrating here made Chicago one of the most vital Polish-speaking cities in the world.  This touching folksong reminds us that, despite the thriving community they created, it was hardship that brought those first Poles to our city.

Robert Johnson, arr. Sinozich: Sweet Home Chicago
Blues legend Robert Johnson may have sold his soul to the devil, but not before he gave us this timeless standard, sometimes called the unofficial anthem of Chicago.

Norworth and Von Tilzer, arr. Anne Heider: Take me out to the ballgame
People gotta have fun!  This jaunty setting by Anne Heider incorporates all of Jack Norworth's original lyrics.  Root, root, root for the ... Cubbies? ...White Sox?

Join us October 6-21, 2018, for this remarkable musical tour of The Windy City!  Tickets and information.

Share your Chicago photo!

Jul 2, 2018

Our season-opening concert, Chicago, Chicago with Geoffrey Baer, will feature vivid projections of our city...and we want you to participate! Share a photo of yourself in front of an iconic Chicago view for a chance to be featured in a projection during the show!

Photo Upload Instructions:

—Open the Chicago a cappella flickr page in a new window using this link:

—Log in using your own flickr account OR our guest account: Username: | Password: Projections2018

—Upload your photo to the "Chicago, Chicago Projections" Group page.

That's it! You're all done. We can't wait to see your photo submissions! 

Submissions due by August 1.

Need help? Contact Marketing Manager Cait Williams at

Chicago, Chicago with Geoffrey Baer Program List

May 30, 2018

Song Composer/Source Arranger
C'est l'aviron    Trad. French Canadian Jonathan Miller
Shawneetown    Trad. Midwestern Bustin/Dalglish/Larsen/Miller
El-A-Noy    Trad. Midwestern Augustus Zanzig
City of Chicago    Barry Moore Nick Page
Die Wollust in den Maien    J. Brahms  
Follow the Drinking Gourd          Trad. Spiritual Allan Koepke
Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier    Trad. English/American Shaw/Parker
America the Beautiful    Ward/Bates Deke Sharon
The Song of the Ferris Wheel    Sturges/Schleiffarth Jonathan Miller
Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)    Fred Fisher Jonathan Miler
  I N T E R M I S S I O N   
Prayers of Steel       Jerry Troxell  
This Train    Traditional Gwyneth Walker
Chicago Bound Blues        Lovie Austin Jonathan Miller
Precious Lord    Thomas A. Dorsey Arnold Sevier
Las Mañanitas    Trad. Mexican Ramón Noble
Goralu, czi ci nie zal Trad. Polish Jacek Sykulski
Sweet Home Chicago    Robert Johnson Patrick Sinozich
Take Me Out to the Ballgame    Albert von Tilzer Anne Heider

Artistic Director Search

Mar 19, 2018

Artistic Director Search Officially Opens

As we announced last fall, Jonathan Miller will be stepping down from his role as Artistic Director over the next two seasons.  Today, we are excited to announce the search for Chicago a cappella's second Artistic Director.  Details of the search are available here.  The initial call for submissions closes June 1, 2018.  As we approach our 25th anniversary season, we have many exciting plans ahead and a wonderful history on which to build.  We are looking forward to sharing the next stage of our organization with you in the years ahead!

The History of Rock and Soul, Part 2 Program List

Feb 19, 2018

Song Original Artist Songwriter
Don't Stop Fleetwood Mac Christine McVie
Both Sides Now Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
How Sweet It Is James Taylor Holland-Dozier-Holland
I Feel the Earth Move Carole King Carole King
Roundabout Yes Jon Anderson, Steve Howe
Midnight Train to Georgia Gladys Knight & the Pips Jim Weatherly
Love Train The O'Jays Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff
Theme from Shaft Isaac Hayes Isaac Hayes
Your Song Elton John Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Don't Go Breaking My Heart  Elton John and Kiki Dee Carte Blanche and Anne Orson
Changes David Bowie David Bowie
Somebody to Love Queen Freddie Mercury
Reelin' In the Years Steely Dan Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
I Will Survive Gloria Gaynor Freddie Perren, Dino Fekaris
She Works Hard for the Money Donna Summer Donna Summer, Michael Omartian
Three Little Birds Bob Marley Bob Marley
Wonderful World, Beautiful People Jimmy Cliff Jimmy Cliff
Blitzkrieg Bop The Ramones Joey Ramone, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Tommy Ramone
And She Was Talking Heads David Byrne
Celebration Kool and the Gang Kool and the gang
Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again) Sly & the Family Stone Sylvester Stewart

Love Stories Press Release

Jan 4, 2018


CHICAGOChicago a cappella takes audiences inside the warm and intimate relationship of a long-time married couple at the ensemble’s upcoming program, Love Stories. With an original script by Jeff Award-winning playwright Tom Mula, veteran Chicago actors Karen Janes Woditsch and Michael Weber join the acclaimed singers of Chicago a cappella for a touching journey through the layers of love, from red-hot passion to wistful melancholy and beauty in the everyday.  Along the way, the music ranges from Italian madrigal and Spanish flamenco to “My Funny Valentine” and the jazz standard “Fever.” The compelling intimacy of this ever-eclectic concert will make an unforgettable musical Valentine.

Love Stories will take place Saturday, Feb. 10 at 8:00 pm at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL; Sunday, Feb. 11 at 4:00 pm at Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St., Chicago, IL (Hyde Park); Friday, Feb. 16 at 8:00 pm at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St., Oak Park, IL; and Saturday, Feb. 17 at 8:00 pm at Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave, Naperville, IL, on the campus of North Central College. For tickets and more information visit or call (773) 281-7820.

A Poetic Musical Feast

The ten singers of Chicago a cappella, prepared by Principal Music Director John William Trotter, will demonstrate their stylistic breadth at the group’s upcoming concert, Love Stories. Audiences will hear musical illustrations of love by 16th century master Claudio Monteverdi; Broadway greats Rodgers and Hammerstein; and living composers Morten Lauridsen, Evanston’s Stacy Garrop, and the ensemble’s artistic director Jonathan Miller. With songs featuring texts by Shakespeare, Rilke, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, the singers bring deeper expression to a poignant love story filled with wit and humor in this unique melding of theater and music.

Karen Janes Woditsch and Michael Weber

Karen Janes Woditsch is a Jeff-award winning actor whose accomplished career holds roots in Chicago. She has appeared with the acclaimed Writers Theatre in Glencoe in over 20 productions. Additionally, she performed the role of Julia Child in the world-premiere of To Master the Art originally produced at Timeline Theatre and later at the Broadway Playhouse, earning her a Jeff nomination. Additional acting credits include performances with Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare, Court Theatre, and more. TV credits include Patriot, Chicago PD, Runner and Crisis. Film credits: Bad Johnson and American Fable.

Michael Weber is the Artistic Director of Porchlight Music Theatre and previously served as Artistic Director for the inaugural season of Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place and at Theatre at the Center.  Acting credits include Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy (both starring Patti LuPone) at Ravinia, appearances with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, First Stage Milwaukee, Cleveland Playhouse, and more.  Weber directed Jeff nominated productions for Best Production-Musical that include: Sweeny Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pal Joey, Assassins, Side Show, Grand Hotel and She Loves Me. Weber is proud to serve as a pledge host on WTTW, Channel 11.

Chicago a cappella

Chicago a cappella is one of the area’s most accomplished and innovative vocal ensembles. Spanning a repertoire from Gregorian chant to the Beatles and beyond, the group is presenting its 25th season under founding Artistic Director Jonathan Miller. This season’s concerts, prepared by Principal Music Director John William Trotter and renowned guest music directors, will be presented at eleven venues in the Chicago area. The ensemble has been hailed as “the area’s best unaccompanied group” (Chicago Magazine) and “the city’s liveliest, most versatile vocal ensemble” (Chicago Tribune).


Calendar Editors, Please Note:
[Category: Performing Arts / Music / Classical Music]
Chicago a cappella: Love Stories
Sat., 2/10/18, 8:00 pm, Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL
Sun., 2/11/18, 4:00 pm, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL (Hyde Park)
Fri., 2/16/18, 8:00 pm, Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake St., Oak Park, IL
Sat., 2/17/18, 8:00 pm, Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, IL, on the campus of North Central College
Tickets: $43 preferred / $35 general / $30 seniors / $15 students / group rates available
[Additional $2 each for tickets purchased at the door]
Tickets: (773) 281-7820 or online at
This program is generously supported by the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation and the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation. Chicago a cappella is also supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; the Oak Park Area Arts Council, in partnership with the Villages of Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest; and the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency.

Love Stories Program List

Dec 18, 2017

Bay mir bistu sheyn   Shalom Secunda, arr. Zuckerman
Getting to Know You/Surrey with the Fringe on Top   Rodgers & Hammerstein, arr. Sinozich
Something's Gotta Give   Johnny Mercer, arr. Sinozich
Volgea L'anima mia Soavemente   Claudio Monteverdi
Thy Two Breasts (from Kisses of Myrrh)   Jonathan Miller
Rosa Maria   Camaron De la Isla (Jose Monje Cruz), and Paco de Lucia
My love is as a fever   Håkan Parkman
Fever   Davenport & Cooley, arr. Sharon
A Summer Sonnet   Kevin Olson
Te quiero   Alberto Favero, arr. Cangiano
La rose complète   Morten Lauridsen
What lips my lips have kissed   Stacy Garrop
There Will Never Be Another You   Gordon/Warren; arr. Jalkeus/Edenroth
God Only Knows   Wilson & Love; arr. Bergquist
My Funny Valentine   Rodgers & Hart, arr. Krogstad

Holidays a cappella 2017 Press Release

Nov 29, 2017


CHICAGO— Chicago a cappella illuminates December with more familiar tunes than ever before at their beloved Holidays a cappella concerts. Guest Music Director Paul Langford brings his vibrant talents as a pop music director and producer to his own arrangement of American folk group Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Light One Candle.” Langford also gives new life to holiday favorites with fresh arrangements of five beloved carols, all heard in their Chicago premieres. Along with Chanukah melodies, Christmas spirituals, and more, Chicago a cappella will bringaudiences the gorgeous voices and intimate blend that have made Holidays a cappella a Chicago musical tradition.
Chicago a cappella will perform the U.S.  premiere of “Gdy śliczna Panna,” composed by Pawel Lukaszeweski,five-time Fryderyk winner (Polish equivalent of U.S. Grammy award). Other international melodies include worksfrom Mexico, Russia, and Canada.

Holidays a cappella will take place Friday, Dec. 8 at 8:00 pm at Wentz Concert Hall on the campus of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, IL; Saturday, Dec. 9, 8:00 pm at Fourth Presbyterian Church located on Michigan Ave. at Delaware, Chicago, IL (Gold Coast); Sunday, Dec. 10 at 4:00 pm at First Unitarian Church, 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL (Hyde Park); Friday, Dec. 15 at 8:00 pm at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL; Saturday Dec. 16 at 8:00 pm at St. Clement Church, 642. W. Deming Pl., Chicago, IL (Lincoln Park), Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4:00 pm at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake. St., Oak Park, IL. For ticketsand information, visit or call (773) 281-7820.

Polish Composer Pawel Lukaszewski

“It was a throwback day for sure, to be able to do that in Poland! Poland has something the U.S. mostly no longer has —a store where you can sit and pull scores off the shelf and browse to your hearts delight. I bought about 40 scores that day for Chicago a cappella to consider for future concerts,” said Founder and Artistic Director Jonathan Miller. Miller recently traveled to Poland to study and engage with Polish composers about their works. During his trip, Miller spent time with Pawel Lukaszewski, whose work “Gdy śliczna Panna” is featured in Holidays a cappella. Lukaszewski’s five-time Fryderyk wins (equivalent of the U.S. Grammys) have gained him significant visibility in Europe, particularly in the UK where several choral ensembles have commissioned him to write new works. He currently serves as vice–rector and a professor of composition at Fryderyk ChopinAcademy in Warsaw.


Chicago a cappella is one of the area’s most accomplished and innovative vocal ensembles. Spanning a repertoirefrom Gregorian chant to the Beatles and beyond, the group is presenting its 25th season under founding Artistic Director Jonathan Miller.  This season’s concerts, prepared by Principal Music Director John William Trotter and renowned guest music directors, will be presented at eleven venues in the Chicago area. The ensemble has been hailed as “the area’s best unaccompanied group” (Chicago Magazine) and “the city’s liveliest, most versatile vocal ensemble” (Chicago Tribune).

Artistic Director Transition

Oct 5, 2017

Looking Ahead to 25 Years and Beyond

In the next two or three seasons, you will see a transition as Chicago a cappella identifies an Artistic Director to succeed Jonathan Miller in that role. Jonathan will always be our founder, advisor and friend, as he is to so many of you who have watched CAC grow through the years. At his own request, Jonathan will be stepping back from responsibilities for programming and artistic supervision.  With deep gratitude for the legacy Jonathan has created, the board of directors will undertake a search for his successor.  Jonathan will continue in his role during the transition, allowing us to meet this challenge in a strategic and collaborative way.  

As we approach our 25th anniversary season in 2018, we have many exciting plans ahead and a wonderful history on which to build.  We are looking forward to sharing the next stage of our organization with you in the years ahead!

Program list for ¡Cantare! Chicago

May 5, 2017

Musical works on ¡Cantare! Chicago community concert (May 2017)

Cantos de Primavera (Songs of Spring)   Music: Diana Syrse Valdes
text: Nezahualcoyotl, adapted by the composer

Chicago a cappella High School Intern Ensemble
Ace Gangoso & Susan Schober, directors

Honor Y Gloria-Vals*   Music: Rogrido Cadet, adapted from a traditional Mexican folk tune
Hubbard High School Band
Dave Stahlberg, director
El Pajaro Carpintero*   Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics

El Tejon (Quebradita)*


Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics

Pilsen Community Academy
Bruce Cuscaden, music teacher

Siete Haiku (Movements I, III, V, VII)

  Music: Jorge Cordoba

Chicago a cappella High School Intern Ensemble

La Calavera*   Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics
El Fandanguerito*   Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics
Horizon Science Academy – McKinley Park
Amy Bearden and Jamie Kovatch, music teachers

Prehispanic Landscape*

  Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics

Danzon del Querer*

  Music: Rodrigo Cadet, Folk lyrics

Hubbard High School Choir
Sharon Quattrin Campagna, director

Las Mañanitas   Traditional Mexican; arr. Rámon Noble
Este, ques ves, engaño colorido*   Music: Rodrigo Cadet,
Text: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Bésame mucho   Consuelo Velázquez, arr. José Galván
Chicago a cappella
Benjamin Rivera, Guest Music Director
¡CANTARE!   Music and Lyrics: Jesus Echevarria
Combined Ensembles

* Premiere performance of newly-commissioned work

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