Thursday, December 11, 2008

All is Calm touring and xmas update

Hey Gang.

Posting late after our show in Sioux Falls, SD. Just returned from Monk's public house, where some of us were enjoying a nice Belgian beverage to warm up our chilled bodies after the show. Had a nice time hanging out with our good friend Audra, who works for the Washington Pavilion, recoding venue for a few of our albums. We head to Algona Iowa in the morning. We had a great time last week doing our annual Away in a Manger concerts, with cider, cocoa, and hay rides!

We departed soon after to tour All is Calm, first to Irvine California, then two Arizona Shows (way to go 80 degrees!), then New Hampshire, and back to Minnesota for a show at St. Bens. (here's a nice scene...Adam and Paulie on the beach!)

We headed to Wasau, Wisconsin, and now we are in the familiar territory of Sioux Falls. I guess it sounds like a revolving door of cities and venues, but we do get sometimes to hang out in a town long enough to enjoy it. We've spent enough time in Sioux Falls to have favorite joints to eat at, or candy shops to visit.

We look forward to bring ing All is Calm to our home audience in the Cities. Hope to see you there. The shows have been going great, and CD sales have been very good too--don't forget to stuff your stockings with Cantus CDs!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Driving blues

Safe and sound in Athens GA, we just had a nice dinner and drinks at a great Mexican place next door to the motel. The trip here, though, was a little bit of an adventure. Extremely windy up in the West Virginia hills, but low temperatures wreaked a little havoc on the windshield washers on our van. We figure some other renter must have put some water in with the windshield fluid, because when we opened the hood (this was after trying to keep our van on the road looking through either a haze of white or at the most a tiny clean gap on the windshield), the wiper fluid was basically a big blue ice cube! After a comedy of bad choices for interstate exit ramps we stopped at a Kmart for some new fluid, which we topped off, but it was only 75 miles south of there that the temperature got warm enough for the lines to thaw. Ridiculous.

The actors and director just showed up at the motel, after their own drive from Charlotte this evening, and we are anxious to perform the show tomorrow night. Some of us have relatives that are coming to the show, which always makes the trip a little more special than when we perform only for strangers.

Almost Heaven...West Virginia

Thursday Nov. 20

After a flight to Charlotte NC, our day of travel ended on wooded, windy roads in the mountains of West Virginia. I brought along a new (old) board game based on the crime sprees of Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, and other gangs. Pretty fun, and we got a lot of the guys to play. I think we were having board game withdrawal. Our show at Concord University in Athens, WV was intimate. We stayed at the beautiful Pipestem State Park lodge (out in the sticks, though), with a homey atmosphere, mountain vistas, and deer--lots of deer!

Tomorrow we meet up with the actors and head to Athens Georgia for our first touring performance of All is Calm at the Univesity of GA. Looking forward to touring that show, and bringing it to other audiences around the country.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cantus in the South Pt. deux, and Musings of a Touring Tenor.

More pics and news from our Southern Tour:

If you see a familiar face in this picture, you aren't crazy--we want to thank Tom McNichols for stepping in for this tour to cover the paternity leave of tim Takach who, with his wife, welcomed a bouncing baby boy while we were away. Cantus prides itself on being as family-friendly as a touring organization can be, and we were fortunate that Tom (who left the group last season to pursue a solo career in New York) was available and knew a lot of the repertoire already!

We finished our tour in Louisiana--two shows at LSU. The weather was mostly beautiful, so you could find a few of us throwing a frisbee on campus, and later some of the guys headed to the Louisiana State capitol. Here they are in front of the Huey Long statue--Adam riddled us with Louisiana political trivia (appropriate for the week in question, it would seem) for the rest of the trip!

We followed all of this with an afternoon in New Orleans before we headed to the airport in the evening. Bourbon Street was quiet, but blues bands and drinkers were about starting about 2pm. Gumbo, beans and rice, and jambalaya were on the lunch menu, and then we were off to the aeropuerto.

(Nov 11) Just finished a great show at Concordia up at Fargo/Moorhead, and sitting here in this nicer Courtyard Mariott, marveling at the irony that the nicest places to stay (room refrigerators, microwaves, comfortable beds, and friendly staff--that these are invariable the places we only get to stay in one night while we are on tour...

And by nicer, I don't mean frou-frou. The frou-frou joints that cater to business travelers on the high end look nice, but are often lame (expensive daily internet fee, people won't leave you alone)--kind of like a bathroom with an attendant. You know you're going to get stuck paying for being handed something you didn't want in the first place. Anyway, this hotel had the right combination of quiet and service. Breakfast buffet wasn't exorbitant, either. Oh, but don't get me wrong--boutique hotels can be fantastic--those tend to have the big fluffy beds, and niceties. We'd stay at those anytime.

Also, this could be time to mention that Cantus usually doubles up on the rooms. This actually makes us a little more competitive in the market. So you've got a roommate most of the time--and on an intermittent basis, you get the single room (since we have an odd number of singers). Everyone has different sleeping/waking habits, and we mix up the roommates pretty often. You know, this reminds me...we've been very DVD-oriented so far this season, but the board games have yet to be brought along. Guys--hey, let's get it together!!


Friday, October 31, 2008

Cactus heads south!

Kicked off this two week tour in Tyler TX. Nice crowd, which included our friend Anna Rose Bain, a fantastic young portrait artist who did this lovely drawing of us a couple of years ago.

Cantus returned to Ft. Smith, Arkansas next, where we performed our first show with the Boston Pops last November. It's neat to come back to a venue again, and the turnout was very high--many people who saw us last year.

We headed out to Little Rock next, staying down by the River Market, and the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which a few of us visited. PIC A perfect venue to visit in this most political of seasons!

The collection details life in the White House and in international politics during the Clinton years, and also featured a special exhibit of amazing Choppers.

By the end of the stop there, we had been treated to fantastic weather, good restaurants, and a post-show tour of the Diamond Bear Brewery! It was a late night, but we got to (heavily) sample all the current production in the front bar, and enjoy the company of the concert presenter's board members and friends of water scientist/brewery part-owner John Czarnecki.

More to come!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Welcome to the 2008-09 Season

The men of Cantus hope that your summers were all fantastic, and that you are all ready to enjoy some great music with us this year! We welcome two new members: bass Chris Foss and tenor Paul Rudoi to the roster. We had a short run-out last week to Ames and Storm Lake, Iowa to kick of the touring season, and this weekend we present our touring program in the Twin Cities, entitled"While You are Alive".

We've had a great time off this summer--the guys have done some traveling, some music-making of their own, but after reconvening, our rehearsal period has come to an end, and we will be out for the next nine months going at it with a vengeance. Be sure to check our concert listings to be sure you see us in your town this season.

Monday, August 11, 2008

2007-08 season wrap-up

We've spent a season traveling the world. Beginning with an African tour, three weeks with the Boston Pops, a hit Christmas show, recording two albums' worth of new music, and finishing the season with a collaboration with Trio Mediaeval at our Kennedy Center debut, Cantus got a well-earned rest at the end of the trail.

After our quick stop in Cleveland with the ladies of Trio Mediaeval, we moved on to the Kennedy Center, performing to a sold-out house (great review here).

The season ended on a high note, though we feel some sadness as we say goodbye to two of our members, Tom McNichols and Michael Jones, who are moving on to other opportunities. Tom's wins of the District and Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions were a big turning point, and we wish him luck as he begins his solo career. Michael Jones' path has taken him to a tour of Les Miserables and to some charity work.

We are looking forward to next season: rehearsals start on the 18th of August, and we have exciting things to share with you as the men of Cantus tour the country again, and sing more locally than ever before. We also welcome two new members of the ensemble for 08-09, bass Chris Foss, and tenor Paul Rudoi. More news about them later.see you during the 2008-09 season!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pop shows a rousing success!

The chilly weather may not be gone from Minnesota evenings yet, but the air was afire during our sellout weekend of pop shows/recording dates at the Southern Theater. Joined by percussionist extraordinaire Dave Hagedorn, multi-instrumentalist/composer Lee Blaske, and longtime recording engineer and editor-in-chief of Stereophile Magazine John Atkinson, Cantus presented its first-ever all-pop concerts. True to most Cantus shows, we threw lots of interesting sounds into the mix of vocal harmonies, including mandolin, accordion, spoons, washboard, latin percussion, acoustic guitar, bowed and mallet struck vibraphone, glockenspiel, and bass guitar. The songs ranged from classics by the Beach Boys, Curtis Mayfield, and Roy Orbison to dance and avant-pop songs by Deeelite and Bjork, and most everything in between. Tim's new arrangement of the Leonard Cohen classic Hallelujah received a great reception, as did our Aretha Franklin-inspired arrangement of Eleanor Rigby and faux-bluegrass imagining of the White Stripes' Got Her in Your Pocket.

We received a solid review (available here), and sang to packed houses all three nights of the run. Thanks to Luther College's alumni association for hosting an opening night reception at the next-door Town Hall Brewery after the show--guess it pays that we now have a Luther grad (Eric Hopkins) in the group.

We flew immediately the next morning (don't ask how early, please :( ) to Norfolk to sing that evening, kicking off a four-day engagement at the Virginia Arts Festival. We taught at two high schools, and sang in two more venues over the next three days, but also managed to get back to Colonial Williamsburg (we were just there at Xmastime with the Boston Pops) and Jamestown Settlement before our show in Williamsburg on our last night there.

Next time: Trio Mediaeval and our return to Washington DC!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fun in Milwaukee

After teaching a day-long festival in Muskego, WI, we were surprised to pull into our hotel in another Milwaukee suburb and find a waterpark attached to the place! Also of note were the non-stop wedding receptions and proms that were going on all weekend long. Adam, our Viceroy of Fun (very official title), saw that the Brewers were playing the St. Louis Cardinals Friday, so a few of us headed into town, had dinner with some locals at a great sports bar--the fish and chips was half an entire walleye--and walked to the amazing Miller Park for what turned out to be a captivating bottom of the ninth-bases loaded skin of teeth victory for the Brewers! Jones had a birthday, and during the trip some of us managed to go see Iron Man, too. We always try to have fun on tour.

Tim Takach wins Cantus Idol 2008!

Tim Takach was crowned the first ever Cantus Idol winner on Tuesday night.

Trattoria Da Vinci's was packed to capacity, the audience had stomachs filled with food and ears filled with singing. The initial round featured 8 Cantus singers delighting the crowd with a wide array of songs. The voting was tight, but Dashon, Aaron, Eric and Tim moved on to the second round.

The second round featured songs as diverse as "The Way We Were" by Barbra Striesand to "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. The audience chose Dashon and Tim to move to the finals.

Being friends, neither Tim nor Dashon wanted to have either lose, but in a competition setting, there could be only one winner - Tim took the prize with an inspired performance of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain."

The evening was full of fun, laughter, tasty food and outstanding music. One audience member proclaimed: "Cantus Idol puts the 'fun' back in fundraiser!" Amid all the festivities was a great result - over $2800 was raised for Cantus!

This event will definitely be repeated next year, only getting bigger and better! Watch next spring for Cantus Idol 2009! Special thanks to our celebrity judges: John DeHaan, Brian Newhouse, and Mindy Ratner.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring mega-tour 08 update

A couple more stops on our mega-tour of the South (and Pennsylvania?!) during March and April: Really great to sing a couple of shows in my home state of Kentucky, too. My gramma and some other family made it to the WKU show, and brought along some homemade fudge and other goodies! One of our stops was Corbin, a small town which happens to be the site of Colonel Sanders' Cafe and Museum--home of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken!. No excuse to miss this stop...

We gave tight shows across the tour, with warm audiences (review here), talented kids to clinic in three states, and some great audience-captured performances:

On our two-day drive home, our van decided to give Eric a chance to see the St. Louis arch, as we travelled north through Missouri. We couldn't wait to get home from this twenty-two day tour, but we've had a good time. Nice to arrive back in the Twin Cities with nice weather: all of our significant others have been stuck with snow, cold, and sleet for the past couple of weeks, while we were outside playing Speedminton and wiffleball...

Take care everybody--we'll see you in your town, or at the pop shows in May! -G

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Grueling Questions pt. Deux!

Earlier this season, we presented some answers to pressing questions posed to the Cantus guys about life, music, and fun. Here's part two of those interviews.

Working as a team is lots of fun, but what are your personal goals?

Shahzore Shah: "As a performer, I aim to stretch my vocal and general artistic potential far
beyond perceived limits."

Eric Hopkins "to someday get my Master's degree and teach at the college level.

Gary Ruschman: Sing better. Write more music. Get some sleep. Do a graphic novel.

Tom McNichols: To make a career out of performing while maintaining some semblence of "normal" life

Dashon Burton: I hope to be able to sing in multiple touring ensembles that span a wide range of genres.

Do you have any rituals or things you do before you go out to perform?

Michael Jones: "I never wear shoes untill just before walking out on stage. They make me tense."

Eric Hopkins: " Jump up and down about three or four times"

Aaron humble: "Not really. If I have to sing something big for a matinee I usually have a good greasy breakfast (omelet, turkey sausage, buttery toast, mmmm)"

Finally, If you couldn’t sing, which talent would you most like to have?

Gary Ruschman: "Either creative writing, conducting, or being a fierce bass player."

Dashon Burton: "I would like to have a great memory for detail for use in things like trivia, research, and general academia. I would also love to be able to play Bossa Nova guitar and speak many languages."

Adam Reinwald: "I wish I could run very fast and, most importantly, jump really high. I have always wanted to play professional basketball."

Tom: "I do have it, woodworking. Otherwise I would say, extreme skiier."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fun stops on tour

Given a coveted rare day off in the schedule, we always head to nearby attractions or cities to see the sights, try new restaurants, or spend a day in a park. This tour is no exception, so a few of the guys went to spend time with former Cantus member Mani, and a couple of us headed down to Philadelphia to catch the new touring Star Wars science exhibit.

Philadelphia must really put a lot of effort into community art, because we found incredibly photorealistic murals all over the city, like this one. Gorgeous!

The science museum was inundated with spectators, all there to view the vintage costumes and models, do some hands-on building of robotics and vehicles with magnetic propulsion, and learn about examples of real-life future-engineering for extended space travel. Of course, there was a cadre of actors in costume there to pose with all the kids, big and small!

This tour is pretty immense--more than three weeks, so it's good we get to have a little fun between shows. After tomorrow night's show in Pennsylvania, we head south to the Carolinas, Alabama, my home state of Kentucky, Georgia, then back to Alabama again. Lots of miles, but hopefully some fun times, good shows, and lots of new people to meet.

Another treat came at our late arrival to our first Pennsylvania hotel, when the members of Inpulse ( walked through the door, having just performed a show at the other university in town that evening. Very very strange to have two Minnesota vocal groups booked in the same town on the east coast at the same time!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Recording. Then more recording. Followed by some recording.

As promised, here's a quick rundown of what happened in the past two weeks with Cantus. The short answer: lots of media!

We had such a resounding success with our All is Calm theatre project that we wanted to record it for distribution by the Fall. So we decided to take two days right away in March to record All is Calm (here's a video montage sneak preview):

As for our annual recording project, rather than head to a remote concert hall for a week in June, we decided to record our upcoming pop shows at the Southern Theater to create a live album instead. It saves us some resources, but gives a whole new experience to us and the audience alike. So if you make it to those shows, you might just get captured in the audience! We welcome two collaborators for the shows, multi-instrumentalist Lee Blaske and our favorite artistic partner, percussionist Dave Hagedorn.

To further our media saturation last week, MPR and American Public Media captured a lot of material, including interviews and our collaborative work with the St. Olaf Choir for broadcast. One song was just featured on Tuesday's Performance Today, and our combined session with the Ole Choir will be featured on another broadcast.

Listen here (we're near the end): Performance Today, 3/18/08

To round out the week, we spent an afternoon being filmed in HD by a local filmmaker who is producing a documentary on the Minnesota choral scene. We filmed five numbers, and hopefully we'll get to show you some footage very soon.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Touring and teaching mayhem, 2008 style...

First of all, I should mention that Dashon was unwittingly assuming the Superman pose while we were teaching in Houston--where Cantus reunited with former member Phil Moody, who now is in charge of a big high school music program in Texas. Just like they say, things are big in Texas, and we had a huge day-long festival! On this tour also worked with University of Houston's fantastic college choirs, and Cantus made its Houston Friends of Music debut on the lovely Stude Concert Hall stage at Rice University (review here). What a great place to sing. Despite a large size, the sound on stage is quite intimate, so it was a joy to make music there.

Slipping out early from the sessions with the college choirs, Dashon and I headed across campus to be interviewed on Houston Public Radio (link here).

Here's a shot of the Cantus Mobile Office ©, where we get our work done* while we are on tour. Part of our preparation for our pop shows in May involves writing new arrangements (which you can see me toiling away on here)--thank goodness for notation software!

If anyone is keeping score, the Macs are currently leading the PCs 5-3 in the ensemble, plus two iPhones (not that I am dissatisfied with my Powerbook, but Steve, if you're out there, would you like to make Apple the official laptop of Cantus and throw in some new machines?!).


In other news, if you are a member, you can now catch Cantus on Facebook at

See you next time, when I'll talk about some quick turnaround on new Cantus recording projects, getting "old school" with the St. Olaf choir, Cantus on TV, and other newsworthy items.



Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Welcomes for 2008

Hi, gang:

Welcome to part two of the 07-08 season of Cantus. We now take some time to catch you up on lots of Cantus news and happenings!

Our self-titled release this season was just named one of the top ten for 2007 on NPR!

We also welcome tenor Eric Hopkins to the ensemble. He joins us after a number of years with Dale Warland, and lots of singing in the Twin cities. A quick study, Eric prepared our touring program (about two hours of music) with only two weeks of rehearsal--a large feat! We are very excited to have him along on our travels.

Cantus now has videos up on YouTube! Just visit:

The biggest news for the group this month is that our very own bass, Tom McNichols, is heading to the Met in New York City in February, after winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Minnesota District and Upper Midwest Regionals! He'll complete against young singers from all over the country for a shot at cash prizes, national exposure with a live radio broadcast, and a spot with the Met's young artist program. Good Luck, Tom-- We're all rooting for you!

As for touring, we headed out to southern California for a couple of shows, trading the frigid land of Minnesota
for a balmy (though chilly by San Diego standards) 55 degrees at La Jolla's St. James by the Sea Series! We performed a memorial concert and gave an education opportunity at Bishop's School the next morning, where the choir was getting ready to compete with a Keith Hampton arrangement from Anton Armstrong's choral series, and Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque--both familiar territory for Cantus, so it was a fun and easy clinic to give.

We then headed up to UC-Riverside to do a show for a small but very warm audience despite a pretty chilly night. Special thanks to Denise, Melanie, and all the staff there, who were wonderful hosts! After the show we found that Riverside rolls up its sidewalks pretty early, though to be fair our show was on a Tuesday night. A few of us tried to go out after the show for a bite, but nothing was really open after some, lose some, I guess. Couldn't really stay out late anyway, since we had an early departure to get back to LAX in the morning.

Well, we've got some time at home now, doing some strategic planning for the group during February, then we head back out again mid-month. We'll be in touch again soon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Welcome to the new home of Cantus' travel and touring blog.

Here's a reprint of our last blog from the 2007 Boston Pops Holiday Tour, look for more postings once we hit the road again in late January '08:

Wrapping things up for the Pops tour, our last show of the Holiday tour with them happened last night.

The scheduled plane ride to Newark got cancelled--the weather hit hard again in Boston town--so we shuffled off to the Amtrack station, once we got word over the phone and hopped on a six hour train ride down instead. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) pushed the show back an hour to accommodate the bad weather travelling, and the show kicked off just after 8pm. Wonderful crowd, truly amazing concert hall (gorgeous looks and sound), and Maestro Lockhart announced from the stage that it wouldn't be the last time that Cantus would be seen with the Pops--what a thrill! It appears that all parties were very happy with our performances and collaboration with the orchestra. We do hope that another collaboration will come very soon.

Feels good that all our hard work paid off, and we definitely stretched ourselves on the tour, both musically and personally. The confidence of the last show was a far cry from the initial nervousness that I'm sure we all felt a few weeks ago when we had our first rehearsal in Arkansas. We survived snow-storms, long drives, and nick-of-time arrivals, but the experiences and audiences were all worth it.

Oh, by the way, forgot to mention our fun times too, visiting sights in the East, like Colonial Williamsburg, malls in Maine, beautiful New Haven and Providence, went to some movies, and even a Boston Bruins game! Ate at some fine restaurants, pubs, and sweet shops, too (not to mention cotton candy and popcorn at some of the arenas we played at...)

The men of Cantus wish to express their sincerest thanks to the entire staff, crew, and musicians of the Boston Pops. We all had a wonderful time getting to know and work with you!

As we move into January, we welcome a new tenor (Eric Hopkins) to the fold for the second half of our '07-08 Season, and we look forward to telling you more about him soon.

Join us regularly here at regularly. 2007 was extremely exciting for us, and 2008 should prove to be a lot of fun. Cheers.