Consonant craving

Georgian folk songs resound at Wednesday's Div School lunch

By Lydialyle Gibson

"It's very Georgian to have singing as part of the feast," Clayton Parr said as he and fellow members of Ensemble Alioni stood up from their meals—and the rest of the room dug into fruit-and-cream desserts—to begin their performance at this Wednesday's Div School lunch. Based at DePaul University, where Parr is a music professor and choral-activities director, Ensemble Alioni performs folk music from Georgia (Caucasus, not Appalachia): polyphonic, three-part harmonies about everything from work and war to religious holidays and historical figures. At the Div School, the group offered up a lullaby and Christmas songs that would have been sung house-to-house. ("A little like wassailing," Parr said. "Actually, a lot like it.")

Then the singers invited the audience to join them in an Easter song, "Kriste Aghsdga." Instructed Parr: "Just move as quickly as you can through the consonants to get to the next vowel," as listeners stared down at Xeroxed lyrics packed with consonants. "Krist'e aghsdga mk'vdretit," read the first line. The results were much more melodious than the words might have looked:

As the lunch hour came to an end, Ensemble Alioni found time for one more, closing with a war song that drew a laugh:

The group will hold its spring concert May 20 at 8 p.m. at St. Josaphat Church, 2311 N. Southport, Chicago.

March 4, 2011