Salon ranges from great classics to Gaga hits
Salo members are (from left), bass-baritone Timothy Christopoulos, soprano Anne Marie Lewis, mezzo-soprano Martha Kasten and tenor Henry Pleas,
‘Chantez! A Salon Spring Concert’
Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, 11 W. Maple St., Hinsdale
Friday, May 4, 7:30 to
When a musical group has a repertoire that includes not just Massenet and Schubert, but also Sondheim and Lady Gaga, “stuffy” is not the word to describe it. This would certainly be true of Chicago-based Salon, an ensemble of classically trained singers whose musical abilities cover everything from great classic works to Broadway tunes to current pop favorites.
“The idea is that people these days are not so engaged day to day in classical music, and our interest is providing both an entertaining evening of music, as well as an intellectually engaging evening,” said Henry Pleas, the group’s tenor. He’s a native of La Grange Park who now lives in Oak Park.
“So we do our classical pieces but also like to cross over. The Lady Gaga selection we made, ‘Born This Way,’ is probably the most far-flung from what we do. But (this song) actually works perfectly for our sound and what we do, and speaks to everyone having a right to be who they are and should own that.”
Salon presents “Chantez! A Salon Spring Concert,” on May 4 at the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale.
Other Salon members are: Martha Kasten, contralto; Timothy Christopoulos, bass/baritone; and Anne Marie Lewis, soprano. Chris Garofalo, the Music Director at the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, will be the pianist joining the group for the Hinsdale show.
Pleas explained the genesis of Salon.
“Many years ago I became acquainted with a piece called ‘In a Persian Garden.’ There’s a tenor solo in that I’ve used, and I happened upon the whole piece, the cantata for four solo voices,” he said. “I was visiting a friend, Anne Marie, a friend and colleague from way back, and I mentioned this as a possible ensemble work. She was interested, as was another friend, Martha. We’d all studied with a voice teacher and asked for recommendations for a bass to join us, and she suggested Tim. That came about three and a half years ago, and we’ve been singing together ever since.”
In addition to singing with Salon, Pleas, 50, also has a career as a business analyst specialized in systems and business intelligence. His colleagues have varied day jobs.
“We do different things,” he said. “Martha teaches and sings. Anne Marie also teaches and conducts seminars for vocal students. Tim has a really interesting career as the owner of an online greeting card business, Holiday Cards Unlimited.”
The group took its name and performance format from a long-established type of arts gathering, but decided to give it a 21st-century style.
“There was this tradition in the 19th century where people would just gather, and they’d talk about the pieces they were singing and the relationship of the music to art,” Pleas said. “So we’re trying to do that in a modern way.”
Arranging the material, Pleas added, is a shared project. “We approach it pretty equally, a little somewhat my vision, but we’ve all taken ownership of it.”
He also noted that, “In a chamber ensemble, there is no one conductor, and that’s kind of the excitement of chamber music — it’s a pretty equal collaboration.”