A Hyde Park women’s choir will perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this June in honor of the centenary of JFK’s birth and the founding of the Peace Corps.
Le Cantanti di Chicago, a racially and ethnically diverse group of 28 women ranging in age from teens to octogenarians, will perform a variety of arrangements throughout the weeklong event, in languages ranging from Spanish to Zulu.
“We have members from all over the city,” said Le Cantanti President Mary Rogel (A.M. ’73, Ph.D. ’76). “One of the things we feel pretty strongly about is that this is a choir that reflects the diversity of Hyde Park and reflects the diversity of Chicago itself.”
Le Cantanti was founded in the summer of 2014 by current director Dhilanthi Fernando (A.M. ’95). Fernando attended UChicago as a graduate student, when she worked as the manager and accompanist for the student women’s chorus. Once she graduated, Fernando used leftover copies of music to start a new choir in her living room—a nascent Le Cantanti.
Since its first major concert in May 2015, the choir has hosted two major concerts a year, one in spring and one in winter. Now, this local choir is taking a huge leap.
“We are becoming an ambassador from Hyde Park to other parts of Chicago and, now, to Washington, D.C.—to our nation’s capitol,” Rogel said.
Le Cantanti received an invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center after Fernando submitted a brief audition tape of the choir’s rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”
“I did it half as a joke actually. I did not think that we would be selected,” Fernando said.
This summer’s centennial event will host choirs from 13 countries where the Peace Corps is or was active, including: Bulgaria, China, Germany, Ghana, India, Ireland, Latvia, Mongolia, Morocco, Panama, Spain, Zimbabwe, and the United States.
The concert will pay tribute to JFK’s legacy by featuring songs about freedom, courage, gratitude, and service. Additionally, each choir will be asked to learn one piece specially commissioned by the Kennedy Center, which they will all sing together during the festival.
“I’m excited to travel with this group of women,” said Deanna Digitale-Grider (AB '12), a soprano and Le Cantanti’s music librarian. “I think that we sing because we want to spread a message of hope and love and peace to the world, and I’m excited that we get to take that somewhere else.”
The choir is currently fundraising for airfare to D.C. They recently had a benefit concert on February 26 featuring two Chicago vocalists, and they hope to host one more big event before departing.
For more information, please see http://www.lecantanti.org/donate.html.