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The Gospel According to Chanticleer

Chanticleer, an all-male a capella group best known for its classical repertoire, has released How Sweet the Sound, its second CD of gospel music and African-American spirituals.

On both albums, music director Joe Jennings -- the group's only African-American member -- has served as a cultural guide for his singers. Many were in unfamiliar musical territory and unlike classical choral works, much of the material was not written down. Jennings patiently taught each part of every song to the singers from memory.

How Sweet the Sound was recorded in a San Francisco church and Jennings decided to recruit a little help from the house. He invited his pastor, Bishop Yvette Flunder, to sing as a guest soloist with Chanticleer on the album.

Bishop Flunder found her back-up singers a demanding bunch. "Extraordinarily perfectionistic," she says. "But sometimes the perfection of gospel is to be imperfect -- is to have freestyle opportunities. And these brothers had some real freestyle opportunities."

Chanticleer takes its gospel and Renaissance music on a national concert tour this fall, performing in more than 25 cities through December.

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Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.