Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Truce of 1914 Offers Lessons Today

Roger Barr, a St. Paul writer, came to our performance of "All is Calm" last night and this morning sent us this essay he wrote several years ago. He has given us permission to post it for you to enjoy. Cantus finishes its run of "All is Calm" at the Pantages in Minneapolis today.

Christmas Truce of 1914 offers Lessons Today

This Christmas marks the 95th anniversary of the Christmas truce of 1914. This remarkable event in the opening months of the “war to end all wars” offers a valuable lesson to us today.

War between the Great Powers broke out in August of 1914. By Christmas the two sides were already at stalemate, squared off in opposing trenches that comprised the Western Front. The trench network consisted of a main trench from which soldiers waged war. Behind the main trench were rows of parallel trenches where soldiers slept, stored supplies and cared for their wounded. Between the opposing trenches lay a small strip of unclaimed land called “No Man’s Land.” No Man’s Land ranged in width from as little as a hundred yards to a half mile.

Life in the trenches was cold, muddy and miserable. As Christmas approached in the Ypres region of Belgium, British and German soldiers began to think of home and to recognize the grim fact that what was originally thought to be a short war was about to stretch into a new year.

There are scores of accounts about that remarkable Christmas on the Western Front written or retold by soldiers on both sides. Many of these accounts were collected in Stanley Weintraub’s eloquent book “Silent Night, The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce.”

As Christmas Eve dawned, on the German side small Christmas trees appeared on the edge of the trenches, their glowing candles visible from the British side. The truce began informally with soldiers making catcalls and jeers across No Man’s Land. Soldiers began singing Christmas carols, which were answered with songs from the other side. In some places, enemy soldiers sang carols in unison. To the dismay of officers on both sides, soldiers ventured from their trenches into No Man’s Land where they exchanged cigarettes, liquor and other gifts. There was even a soccer game. The informal truce continued as burial contingents worked side by side to identify and bury fallen comrades. The truce lasted through Christmas Day in some places, longer in others. Then by mutual agreement it ended and the fighting and killing resumed.

The Christmas Truce is all the more remarkable when one understands that on both sides, soldiers (as well as their fellow citizens back home) had been subjected to intense propaganda from their own governments, designed to demonize and dehumanize the enemy. That soldiers were able for even a few hours or days to look past the propaganda and see the enemy as human beings is a rare and exquisite moment in history.

The real lesson of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is for ourselves as citizens. The truce showed us all a place to go, a place unclaimed by politics or ideology, a place where humanity shines in simple acts of kindness. In this holiday season and beyond, we citizens of all cultures have the opportunity—dare I say—the responsibility, to look beyond the propaganda disseminated by our respective leaders, beyond the breastworks and concertina wire of our own prejudices at the humanity of our opponents. As the soldiers did in 1914, we can venture into No Man’s Land and claim it as our own. We can make No Man’s Land “Everyman’s Land” and push its boundaries in both directions, filling in the trenches of ideology, hatred and bigotry.

No Man’s Land is a beautiful place, but it can be a dangerous place for those who venture there. To understand just how dangerous this narrow strip of humanity can be, we need only to look forward from the Christmas Truce of 1914 to the holiday season of 1915. Both the British and German war machines took no chances that another informal truce would break out along the Western Front and foster a premature peace before political goals were achieved. As Christmas approached, both sides pounded No Man’s Land with artillery fire to keep soldiers in their trenches. The war dragged on until 1918.

Writer Roger Barr lives in St. Paul. His short story "Looking Forward to Christmas" appeared in the December 2 Villager, a newspaper serving communities in St. Paul, South Minneapolis and Mendota Heights. It is his 12th annual Christmas story for that publication.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Composing for the Cherry Creek Meistersingers

Hello readers, its Tim here. Paul and I were talking about my day last Wednesday, and he thought it would make a good blog post. So here goes.

Last spring, Sarah Harrison, who directs the Meistersingers at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado, asked me to write a piece for her choir this year. She said that the subject matter (text, poem, story, etc.) for the piece was wide open, and wanted me to give her a couple options. I think I gave her three. I can’t remember two of those, which is fine, because it’s the one we picked that counts, right? She ran the ideas by her singers, and they really liked the idea of setting Pliny the Younger’s description of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 82 AD. I had been excited about this idea for a while and was thrilled that I’d finally get a chance to write a piece about it. They would premiere the piece in the fall and also sing it on their program at the Colorado Music Educators’ Association in January.

The premier went well in October, and Sarah was able to provide me with a recording of the performance. Now usually, I would have had a chance to go in before the premier and work with the choir and make sure that tempos are correct, check that the interpretation is similar to what I had in mind, and get the singers excited about the piece. Between the Cantus fall touring schedule and me being a fairly new Dad and wanting to be home, I really couldn’t find the time. So we did most of that via email and rehearsal recordings.

Normally at this point in the story I’d be done. Once the premier is over, that’s usually the composer’s cue to walk away and start promoting the piece to other groups. But with the CMEA performance still ahead, we still wanted to try and do some of the face-to-face time even after the choir already had the piece under their belts. Last Wednesday, Cantus had a day and a half off in Denver, and I was able to use the time to visit Cherry Creek High School and work with the choir. Notes down, words pronounced correctly and rhythms tight, we could dig a bit deeper during my time with them.

To prepare for my visit, I sat down with the recording of the Meistersingers’ premier performance and thought about some small revisions and changes to the score. Also, with a recording, I’m never sure if what I’m hearing just happened that one night, or if it was consistent in how they sing the piece. For instance if I had a hard time hearing the tenors in two bars, does it always sound like that? Were they nervous that night? Did three singers decide to take a breath at the same time? In the room with them last Wednesday, I was able to hear them work live. We worked on balance between sections, bringing out important note changes, and following an important line as it moves from the sopranos to the tenors, down to the basses for a half measure, and then back to the sopranos and altos as a duet.

We also talked a little about technical aspects of singing. I worked with the tenors on mixing the lower chest part of their register with the lighter color of their upper register. I worked with the sopranos on starting a phrase at the top of their range but not letting it sound like it’s hard work (this is something Cantus works on too).

At the end of the day some of the new ideas I had when I walked into the room were good changes to the score, and some of them didn’t work as well. But what a pleasure it was to work with a talented group of young musicians who are so responsive to ideas and suggestions. They made me an honorary Meistersinger and gave me a Cherry Creek shirt. What a great day!


Nubes Oriebatur: the eruption of Vesuvius

A cloud was ascending. (There had been noticed for many days before a trembling of the earth.)

A cloud was ascending, the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description of than by likening it to that of a pine tree. For it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which spread itself out at the top into branches of a sort; Because, I believe, it was occasioned by a sudden gust of air that impelled it.

A black and dreadful cloud, broken with rapid, zigzag flashes, revealed behind it variously shaped masses of flame: these last were like sheet-lightning, but much larger. It was sometimes clear and bright and sometimes dark and spotted, according to whether it had picked up earth or cinders.

Soon afterwards, the cloud began to descend, and cover the sea; The ashes now began to fall upon us, though it was still sparse.

Soon the real day returned, and even the sun shone out. Every object that presented itself to our faltering eyes seemed changed, being covered deep with ashes as if with snow.

- Pliny the Younger, Letters to Tacitus, 61-112 AD

- Adapted by Timothy C. Takach.

- Translated by William Melmoth, with revisions by Anne Groton

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cantus everywhere you are!


Did you know that you can buy Cantus recordings from our website at 25% off through December 17th? Shipping is always free, and purchases made through December 17th are guaranteed to be delivered by Christmas!

When we record, Cantus strives to find the same chamber music magic that you experience at a performance. We usually stand in our traditional arc so we can communicate with each other facially. We offer each other critical feedback as well as encouragement and always have fun, so that the recording process is as similar as possible to our rehearsal and live performance.

We also have a special on Christmas music if you're looking for sounds to go with the smell of gingerbread and the taste of eggnog.




Since you asked, All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, though not included in the sale, is definitely available. As posted previously, All Is Calm performances have resumed. Audiences around the nation are moved to tears every time we present this incredible story. Especially if you cannot join us for a performance this year, make sure you have All Is Calm in your collection of Cantus recordings.






Thursday, December 3, 2009

All Is Calm: beginnings!

Hello Everyone!

After a week off for Thanksgiving, it's exciting to get back to blogging after the GiveMN.org push. Remember though, even if you didn't have a chance to donate on November 17th, GiveMN.org's "Give to the Max" day, you can STILL donate to Cantus. Just visit Cantus' GiveMN page and go from there!

We started our major December tour several days ago, performing "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" for a sold-out audience at Texas A & M University in College Station. This marks our third year working on "All Is Calm", and the great thing about this production is that it never gets old. Here's a fan of Cantus on what she thought of the show:
"It was one of the best Christmas shows I've ever seen! I loved the history and the music, especially the way in which the show shared a true story I've never heard before. It combines Christmas spirit with a greater appreciation for the individual soldiers in WWI." - Jennifer
We, as the performers, seem to enjoy working on this show more and more each year. Despite it only being around an hour long, it is so effective. We've constantly had people talk about why they love it, whether at home or from our national tours...here another quote from Facebook:
"I saw it in Sioux Falls last December and it was wonderful. It really brought back the hope that is supposed to be what Christmas is representative of. The idea that in time of war the opposing sides could be at peace with each other provides a wonderful demonstration of peace which is what Christmas is all about. Can't wait to see it again this Christmas!" - Kylie
We're going to be performing "All Is Calm" again today, at California State University in Fullerton. They have a wonderful concert hall on campus there, where we performed last year's "While You Are Alive" tour program this past spring!

But blogging, in my opinion, wouldn't be complete without some sort of Cantus humor...so here's a video we took on our most recent "Elemental" tour of a chair in our hotel. The chair just "spoke" to Aaron...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Flight!

Cantus would like to thank all who donated on GiveMN.org's "Give to the Max" day by making this video available:



This is "Flight", a piece by Tim Takach for boomwhacker ensemble. If you'd like to find out about boomwhackers, go to http://www.boomwhackers.com/.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Orchestra Hero?

I was reading the New York Times this morning and came across a pretty cool opinion by a composer, Michael Gordon. Why not have Orchestra Hero? There are two video games out there that are captivating people and working their musical minds in various ways: Guitar Hero and Rock Band. So why not have a game that connects with one of the most influential ensembles of the past 4 centuries? Well, it sounds like something I would love to get my hands on, but I'm not sure if it's got the amount of influence needed to involve game developers. Here's the article I was reading: Orchestra Hero.

And here's the thing. I felt that, after reading the article in its entirety, it was advertised somewhat falsely, since about 3/4 of it was about the history of the orchestra and Michael Gordon's compositions. But then I listened to the sound bite of Gordon's "Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony" and was captivated with it. First off, that's the actual title of the piece. Second, I COULD hear the connection between Beethoven and "Rewriting"...and I don't even know Beethoven's Seventh that well. I've heard it a couple times, but for some reason I understood where Gordon had wanted to go with it, and it made sense to me.

That doesn't excuse the fact that the article was SUPPOSED to focus on the concept of Orchestra Hero...I sort of wished he had been able to make a great case for it, because you'd probably be right with your money if you bet on the fact that certain members of Cantus, if not the whole ensemble, would pick it up. But even if he didn't make a great case, the concept was mentioned. And it will probably continue to be for a long time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's Easy Bein' Green!

As we prepare to bring our Elemental program to the Twin Cities, we wanted to let everyone know the ways that Cantus strives to stay green as we tour, rehearse, and even create our CDs!



Biking or bussing to rehearsal is my usual M.O., along with refilling water bottles I acquire many times. My wife and I decided to remain a one-car family, choosing to live near a transit station when we relocated here from San Francisco (a very green town). Reusing is better than recycling, so if I can repurpose anything, I will: medicine bottles can become a flight-friendly hair gel container, and I haven't taken notes on a new sheet of paper in 5 years! -Gary

Here are testimonials from some of the other artists:

Aaron:

I ride my bicycle to the rehearsal and to the office as much as possible. We often use public transit to get downtown and always use public transit (Shahzore and I) to get the the airport for tour. I also volunteer for Transit for Livable Communities.

Shahzore and I also have a "Nature Mill" composting machine on the balcony of our condo. This machine can take up to 5 pounds of food and paper waste a day to make compost. Up to 25 pounds a week! It turns it into compost that we use in our herb garden in the spring and give to friends to fertilize their gardens.

We switched to GPS to avoid printing huge packets of paper directions.

On tour I carry my own water bottle and we've discussed getting "Cantus" bottles with our logo to use on stage.

You could also talk about gas mileage per person. We have 4 or 5 people in a minivan (usually) that gets about 21 MPG. So that's a pretty good per person mileage. It's taking 1 gallon of gas to transport 4 or 5 of us 21 miles-. Most commuters are getting that kind of mileage for one person.

Chris:

Sometimes I ride my bike when the weather is nice. And I use a stainless steel water bottle instead of plastic ones.

Tim:

Whenever I print off scores of my own pieces for the singers, I print them on the reverse side of used printing paper. When we get our scores, none of the pages looks the same! Some of them have holes punched in the wrong side, some will have one sheet of random resume paper, and some have copied magazine articles on the back. Furthermore, if we ever are done with a one-sided copied score (public domain, of course), meeting agenda, or board report, a
couple of us will collect the pages and just stick them on our personal printer trays at home.

Whenever we travel somewhere in the metro area, we carpool to the fullest extent. If you see two four-door sedans caravanning around with nine guys in them, you can bet it's Cantus!

"While You Are Alive," our latest studio album, used recycled packaging. The cardboard sleeve was post consumer content, we used soy-based inks, and the plastic tray for the disc was made out of 100% recycled pop bottles.

Last tour (Allied) Aaron insisted that we use the stow-n-go part of the minivans (under the floor) for recycling. We would throw cans, bottles, and other recyclables down there until we found an official collection bin at a performance site. Then we'd empty the van and start all over again.

Paul:

I do ride my bike to rehearsal when I can, but I guess the greenest thing I did when I moved here was start to live in a place near downtown so I could just walk to work. I've lived for over a year near Loring Park, which has allowed me to basically walk everywhere, and use public transportation for whenever I needed to get outside of my immediate vicinity.

We invite our audiences to join us in conserving, reusing, and recycling, both at the office and at home. Please also join us next Friday night at St. Olaf Catholic Church, downtown Minneapolis, or Sunday afternoon at St. Bartholomew's in Wayzata. Visit http://cantusonline.org/ for times and tickets.

See you there!




Thursday, October 15, 2009

Alaska!!





So all of you folks probably wonder if we actually made it to Alaska. Of course you know the answer if you've been on our Facebook page--but we haven't said much on the blog!

Alaska has been absolutely incredible. We started the tour with educational outreach in Anchorage followed by a sold out show. Here's a shot of the view from our hotel in downtown Anchorage.

Then, we headed over to Fairbanks for a concert in the lovely Davis Concert Hall. Great acoustics and a terrific crowd. It really felt like the audience was right with us for the entire show. After the show--they wiped us out of CDs!!

We also had the incredible opportunity to take the show "on the road" to Delta Junction and Healy, small towns on opposite sides of Fairbanks. The 2 hour drive in either direction was just stunning. Here's a shot from our drive to Healy, AK.

Now, we're in the city Kodiak on Kodiak Island. Kodiak is sometimes called the "Emerald Isle" because of it's lush vegetation and beautiful vistas. We have our final show tonight in Kodiak--we're looking forward to meeting some of the folks here. I'm sure they will be as receptive as the everybody else we've met in Alaska.

Just in case you're wondering what it looks like in Kodiak. Here's one last shot. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

On to Alaska!

Cantus heads to Alaska later this week (Oct. 8th) and for yours truly it will be the 50th State visited...an 'accomplishment' I attribute almost exclusively to my wonderful job as a Cantus singer. I also luckily had a chance to do a good bit of travel as a member of the St. Olaf Choir, a premier college choral ensemble that tours every February. In fact travel has been a big part of my life, as I first jumped (crawled) on a plane as a toddler, and later undertook some significant trips as a pre-adult, including visiting a number of countries as a Spanish immersion student in elementary and middle school.

I'm sure that is enough of a travel biography of me, but truly we are excited to see the beautiful landscapes of Alaska, and very hyped to sing for the classical music fans of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Kodiak. It will be wonderful to finally delve into our 'Elemental' program, and feel how the pieces we've chosen to represent the Earthly elements interact with the audience. Programming can be such a chore, but, at the same time, it can illustrate your true artistic self. The pieces you choose, as an individual or as an ensemble, offer a small window into your psyche/personality/intelligence/research/etc. A favorite college professor of mine once said that programming is truly an artform. I'm excited to see how our new program hits audiences in Alaska.

Well, off we go to the 49th state. See y'all soon!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gary's Official Tour Endorsements (Fall 2009)

So, as we travel throughout the country and world, we come across places, people, food, and services that just rock. We'll try to keep a running tab on these types of things throughout the season.

All these get a five star rating from the last tour:

Health/Wellness

Glenwood Springs, CO
Glenwood Hot Springs
http://www.hotspringspool.com/
















Sheboygan, WI
Ginger Miller - Massage Therapist
http://www.therapybythelake.com/




Restaurants

Bozeman, MT
Montana Ale Works (fish and bison recommended)
http://montanaaleworks.com















Sheboygan, WI
Nine 21 Bar & Grill (Get the Maple Bacon Mozzarella Wontons!!!!)
1501 S 8th St
Sheboygan, WI 53081-5830


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Quick change on tour!

Shahzore suggested I show the obvious differences between where we woke up this morning (Glenwood Springs, Colorado), and where we ended up (Joplin, Missouri) through a couple of pictures.

But it's more than that. This is priceless.

This was hour 1 through 2 of our drive today:





















...This was hour 3 through 13:




What a difference!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Some pictures of tour


We've traveled a long way from Minocqua, and there have been many pictures taken since then! After Minocqua was Antigo and Sheboygan in Wisconsin(on Gary's birthday!). In Sheboygan, the theater looked very small from the outside, but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful theaters on the tour (and some of the best acoustics too).

Then we went on to Sioux City, IA, and then to Norfolk, Nebraska, where we had ANOTHER little mistake having to do with our press. Remember "Sanctus"? It turns out our press photo was used twice on their posters for the Allied Concert Series, once for Cantus, and the other for...The Harry James Orchestra?


After Norfolk was Rapid City, IA, and while traveling from Rapid City to Butte, Montana, we stopped by Mount Rushmore. It was really great to get some pictures of the whole of Cantus in front of the monument. We also stopped by the always in progress Crazy Horse Monument, which was amazing (and HUGE!).



Most recently, we've been in Glenwood Springs, where we took advantage of the world's largest hot spring pool. The sulfur may have made us smell, but we were more relaxed (by far) than at any other point of the tour thusfar!

Today we're driving to Joplin, MO (A long, long drive), so send us good vibes, and we'll write again soon!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Victims of Spellcheck?!

After enjoying a good show in Willmar MN the night before, and making an emergency stop back in the Twin Cities for some percussion and clothes we'd forgotten to pack, we pulled into our Wisconsin concert venue to find that perhaps we shouldn't have made the trip! It appeared that unfortunately another ensemble was scheduled to perform:



We never got to the bottom of it, but at least the programs had the right information (and the correct group name) printed, with only minor confusion from the audience (eek).


So, Minocqua was a pretty little lake town, and we are enjoying the start of Autumn, surrounded by trees that are just beginning to change into pretty reds, yellows, and oranges. A few of us took an opportunity to take walks around town, or exercise across the road by lakeside. After Antigo tonight, we head for two days to Sheboygan, where will have a night off to rest.







Saturday, September 12, 2009

Touring begins for the 2009-10 season!



Welcome, Cantus fans, to the 2009-10 season!

After singing a very successful show last week at the Minnesota State Fair, as guests of Minnesota Public Radio, we're kicking off a three-week tour of the midwest tomorrow--Please check out our concert page to see when we'll be near you this season. This first tour is for Allied Concerts Series, and takes us to smaller communities, performing a bit lighter fare, before we begin touring our full, more classical-oriented Elemental program.



We get asked often about the touring lifestyle, and how it affects our relationships. It affects each member differently, but I have a special case, because my wife is also a professional singer, who also travels from time to time for performing. The quick and dirty answer to "is that difficult?", is "YES! It's difficult". Sometimes we have to contend with international calling rates, time zone issues, and even daily schedules can be problematic. But thank goodness for the web and Skype!

Here's an example of the kind of thing that goes on:
So, my wife was recently in Germany singing for a month. I went with her for a week (had a great time, btw), while Cantus still had a little vacation, but had to rush home for the start of rehearsals.
We only just got ourselves webcams for our last-generation PowerPC macs, so we were able to connect some mornings for free with video chat--fantastic. Except that she was 7 hours ahead, making her afternoon break my 7 am. I actually managed to stay up till 2 a.m. a few times to catch her at her 9 a.m.!

As it turned out, she needed some sheet music for an audition that she didn't bring, so I needed to scan in some scores and post them for her to download. All pretty simple, if a little tedious, but we accomplished it without spending a fortune in postage and time. Gotta love scanning technology!

Now, the crummy part of this is compounded because when she arrives home, a few days later Cantus goes out on tour. (acute failure on so many levels!) At least we'll both be in the same country, so we'll be able to talk every day.

All this aside, we all hope to see you on our travels this year, and we'll have numerous updates throughout the season to connect with you, which is one of our favorite things to do!

Take care, everybody: we'll see you on the road.



Friday, August 21, 2009

Irony

So most folks know by now that a Tornado hit the south side of Downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday. Cantus was rehearsing at Westminster only a few blocks away from "the action." We rehearse in a children's choir room with no windows and a very dry acoustic. This helps us hear all of the mistakes and doesn't allow for much distraction. Unfortunately it also didn't allow us to hear the Tornado sirens. Lucky for us, one of the Westminster folks came to get us. We went down to the basement, sat on the floor in the hallway and continued rehearsing. Not until one of the Westminster staff joked that this event was "our fault" did we even acknowledge that we were rehearsing They Call the Wind Maria from Lerner and Loewe's Paint Your Wagon. Pretty hilarious. Thankfully Westminster and the surrounding buildings were not harmed by the extreme weather.

Nonetheless, it's great to be back in rehearsal making music again. We'll be on stage before we know it--and I, for one, can't wait!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to Work!!

Cantus jumps back to work with the start of rehearsals tomorrow, Aug. 17th. After a very eventful summer, and a little break, we are working on putting together 3 different programs in the next 3-4 weeks: our normal Touring Program (this year it is called 'Elemental'), a special program for a tour with Allied Productions in September, and some early work on our Christmas shows: All is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914; and 'Away in a Manger', our annual holiday show at Harriet Island in St. Paul, MN.

'Elemental' is a program about the four Aristotelean elements: Fire, Wind, Water, and Earth. When these four elements are in perfect balance, Aristotle writes that a Fifth Element emerges: the Spirit. That is what Cantus hopes to achieve with this program. Some highlights from the 'Elemental' touring program include: music from 20th Century masters Zoltan Kodaly and Veljo Tormis; a wonderful part song by Franz Schubert that uniquely interprets a poem by Goethe about a sea-going apparition; a feisty setting of Greek palindrome by Twin Cities composer Abbie Betinis called 'Yhinx' that actually puts a hex on a former lover; and a host of other pieces from Japan, Sweden, Scotland, the Republic of Georgia, Venezuela, and the U.S.

We are in rehearsal weekdays from 1-6pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, MN. Rehearsals are open: if you want to see how the music is made, schedule a drop-in to rehearsal by emailing reinwald@cantusonline.org! Happy Singing!

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Rain Song

So I'm not one for much surfing the internet anymore. For some reason I've just gotten out of the habit and tend to get stuff done and head out, but today was certainly an exception. I've been working on painting my future apartment with my future roommates all weekend, and needed to just relax and not do much of anything this afternoon (not to mention the long programming meeting with Cantus)!

Not to steer people in other directions or anything, but there are plenty of music blogs that one could get lost in if one has an afternoon to waste. Blogs like Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise or Jeremy Denk's think denk are great places to start, but there are plenty more, ranging from marketing within the performing arts to just plain funny or interesting music.

What's funny about this particular post is that its title, "A Rain Song", stems from a video that I want to share which I found NOT on some other music blog. A friend of mine just happened to keep me on a listserve for an old men's group in which I used to sing (The Sons of Orpheus, in case you're wondering), and passed along this really interesting video while I was reading about the new Hamburg Philharmonic Hall, which will be finished in 2012 and is located in the middle of Sandtor harbour!

The video sort of cuts the song short, and the effects sound ALMOST perfect, but my favorite is the heavy downpour section...and the imitation of cracking thunder. Very cool, very interesting, and above all, I'm a little sad that Cantus is just 9 men. How cool would it be to prepare some sort of soundscape design like this in our regular "Surprise" slot for a touring program?

Anyways, enjoy this video. Will be writing again soon!

Rain

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cantus Season Wrapup


Hello gang,

Cantus finished its home concert season with two exciting weekends at The Ritz Theater performing "Covers II". Got two great reviews of the show. Star Tribune and Twin Cities.com. The boys are all on hiatus now, but we'll be back in the Fall to bring you more music. Here's a video clip from one of the shows:




We also have two bits of very exciting news for Cantus, with a prestigious award and a new musician-led structure! Cantus this month received Chorus America's Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, and is the first collaborative ensemble to do so! It includes a $5000 cash prize.

Cantus' Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to move the group to an artist-led artistic structure, more in line with our chamber music process. This very important decision shows a great commitment to the method that Cantus uses to make its music, and the performers who have always been making the musical decisions. Now, the performers will be leading the company's artistic vision in a much more collaborative way. The recent pop shows were executed under the new structure, and every future show will be programmed by the singers you see on stage.

We hope everyone has a great summer. Its been a very eventful season, and we will be preparing for the next one all summer. We'll have a preview of next season coming up very soon. Until then, we have just two more cities, Chautauqua, NY and New London, NH. See you on the road!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

John Luther Adams

Adam Reinwald and I were working in the Cantus office yesterday, sorting through and filing music while geeking out to some music from his infamous iPhone. We came across some interesting scores, including a small art song entitled "up into the silence" by John Luther Adams (the poem is by e.e. cummings...a GREAT poem that you should google!). I brought this art song home to sift through. At first I couldn't figure out if I liked it or not... It was repetitive, with the same sorts of figures in the accompaniment, and the right hand of the piano almost always played what the solo line was singing (which wasn't much other than arpeggios already used in the piano part). But by the end of the bleak-sounding piece, I was completely entranced. It wasn't boring like I'd thought: It was very, very slow progress, with a lot of measured silences.

So I looked up this John Luther Adams, and it turns out he's pretty famous. He's got a discography of around 10 CDs, a quote from Lou Harrison mentioning that he's "one of the few important young American composers", and it seems like he's a semi-continuation of Morton Feldman's ideas about slow moving processes. But these slow moving processes and possible minimalist gestures are a direct result of his love for Alaska, where he's lived since the late 1970s, which he mentions in almost every interview I could find.

I then searched for him elsewhere, and came upon this article in the New Yorker about a sound and light installation that Adams placed in the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It's called "The Place Where You Go to Listen", and it's based on natural events that occur in real time. By that I mean it's completely controlled by input data collected from its surroundings: seismic waves, overcast/clear skies, etc. I know...I freaked out a little too.

So check the New Yorker article out...it's quite interesting. And who knows. Maybe John Luther Adams might sit in on one of our concerts in October, when we're scheduled to have our very first Alaska tour!

Monday, June 8, 2009

This is what we do

Hello, folks. Since it's my first post on this here blog, I thought I'd introduce myself. My name is Tim Takach, and I've been singing in Cantus forever. Seriously. This is the end of my 13th year singing bass, and I love it. I'm also the graphic designer for the group, and I'm a professional composer on the side. Here's a bit more about me.

When we go on the road, there' a lot of work to be done. First of all, there are the concerts, which on an average concert day keep us scheduled from about 3:00pm until 10:00pm. We also do educational outreach programs, which happen about 4-5 times per tour, and those usually keep us busy for 2-3 hours per day. And then there's the driving. Oh yes, the driving. Sometimes we fly, but usually, we pile into sweet, sweet minivans and "roam around the world" (yes, it's a lyric from the b52s. We're in the middle of our Covers concerts...).

So that begs the question, what do we do when we don't have to be around each other all the time? The answer, surprisingly, is that we spend even more time with each other. Movies (either on the theater or on DVD), board games, frisbee games, work outs, hotel swimming pools, dinner outings, and many other things beckon to us as we travel. Once, eight of us went bargain hunting at Kohl's. I know. Please don't tell anyone.

However, having fun and playing games rule our off hours, and we take any chance we get to try a new game. Paul introduced us to a game he had played called Telephone Pictionary. He bugged us for months to try it, and we finally got around to playing during our March tour.

Here's the scoop:
Everyone sits in a circle, with a stack of paper in front of them.
Everyone write a phrase or on their page, and then passes it to the left.
That person reads the phrase, and then tries to capture it in a drawing on another sheet, and then passes their drawing to the left.
The next person looks at the drawing, and writes down what they think the original phrase was, then passes that to their left.
The next person looks at the new interpreted phrase and tries to capture it in a drawing.
See where this is going?

By the time you get your own original back, it is supported by slowly degrading versions of what you wrote down. Then you so a bit of show and tell, so everyone can see how the original answer got skewed. So, I'm posting a couple of examples from our recent game. See what you think they are. Comment if you like.

Example #1:
You know, I think I might even need a refresher as to what this was. Hey Cactus guys, want to weigh in?










Example #2:
This had something to do with shoefly pie, and ended up with Tom Selleck, apparantly.











Example #3:
Anyone want to guess?












Thanks for your time, and as always, thanks for your support of Cantus. See you next time!

Tim

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Check out the pop podcast

Hi, Cantus fans:

just wanted to make sure you knew about this and next weekend's pop shows. Here's a new podcast featuring Tenor Paul Rudoi, bass Chris Foss, and Podcast host Aaron Humble:

Pop Podcast 2009

See you at the Ritz!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cantus Covers!

Hello All,
We've been busy at work getting ready for our Covers Concerts, June 5-6, and June 12-14 (tickets), and it's just been a blast. We always enjoy being rockers for a day (or two weekends in this case). And Gary doesn't even have to turn on his PlayStation 2 (a failed attempt at humor suggesting that he plays way too much Guitar Hero). 
Nay, the guitars are real, and so are the awesome collaborators we are working with. Here's a little impromptu sampling that I created entirely with my computer! Do forgive the poor sound, video quality, and/or nauseating cinematography, I hope it's just a fun peek into what we do in rehearsal. Don't forgive my hair's cameo. Go Mac!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Songs

I couldn't help thinking about summer as I enjoyed a perfectly sunny, breezy day. Here are links/lyrics to performances of two of my favorite summer songs for ensembles.

Sumer is icumen in (performed by the Hilliard Ensemble)

Sumer is i-cumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed,
And bloweth med,
And springeth the wde nu:
Sing cuccu! cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lamb,
Lhouth after calve cu;
Bulluc sterteth,
Bucke verteth,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu!
Wel singes thu cuccu,
Ne swik thou nauer nu!
Sing cuccu nu!
Sing cuccu!


Wild Mountain Thyme (performed by The Corries)

O the summer time has come
And the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And the wild mountain thyme
Grows around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go lassie go?

Chorus:
And we'll all go together
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go lassie go?

I will build my love a bower (summerhouse)
By yon cool crystal fountain
And round it I will pile
All the wild flowers o' the mountain
Will ye go lassie go?

(chorus)

I will range through the wilds
And the deep glen sae dreamy
And return wi' their spoils
Tae the bower o' my dearie
Will ye go lassie go?

(chorus)

If my true love she'll not come
Then I'll surely find another
To pull wild mountain thyme
All around the bloomin' heather
Will ye go lassie go?

(chorus)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Snow in May

Well, actually, I do remember a May with an amazing snowfall back in college. The event served as the basis of a friend's stance against living in the Upper Midwest..."No way I'm staying here! We literally had nine months of winter this year. It snowed at the end of September, throughout the fall, winter and spring, and here it is again in May!"

One of our collective favorites on the upcoming series Covers II: A Pop Concert takes advantage of the nostalgia surrounding snowy images and ties them beautifully to summer. If you haven't yet heard White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, you ought to do so. Then come hear our performance, including collaborators Dave Hagedorn, Lee Blaske, Mark Ilaug and Rikki Davenport.




Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cantus Idol!!!


Hey Everybody,

Well it's been a while since The Big Event, but Cantus Idol was a huge success! For those who don't know what Cantus Idol is, Cantus has hosted a fundraising event, a "competitive karaoke" competition, entitled Cantus Idol for the past two years. This year the event was held at Hell's Kitchen, a fantastic restaurant in the middle of downtown Minneapolis. It's a competition a la "American Idol", so it wouldn't be complete without a panel of three judges with fantastic, and unique, personalities. This year our judges included John DeHaan, professor on the faculty of the Vocal Department at the University of Minnesota, Brian Newhouse, broadcast host for Minnesota Public Radio, and Laura Anderson, who is working as the Assistant Director of the University of Minnesota's opera program. Without this panel, the evening would have only been half as entertaining!

In Cantus Idol, each member of Cantus gets up and performs a song they chose. Before, during, or after each of the songs, people can "vote" for their favorite (or favorites) by placing donations in the jar with that singer's picture on it. That's why you see a man's head in the picture with Elvis...I mean...Adam, below. He must have liked that performance, and put some money in! After the first round, five singers are eliminated. After the second round, it's just the top two. Last year Tim won (and I keep hearing about his legendary choice of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid), but this year Gary took home the trophy. You can see him above, singing out to the audience in his last number.

Speaking of pictures, I was able to capture some great ones with my new camera! I've been toying around with my new digital SLR for a couple months now, and thought Cantus Idol would be perfect practice. The best part was, I had no idea what I was getting into. From Dashon's white jacket, which became famous by the end of the night it was referred to so much, to Tim singing "A Whole New World" with Jocelyn, his wife...In German..., to Adam singing an Elvis tune while looking the part. The night was just way too much fun, and we all knew it. Below is a picture of Eric Hopkins with his husband Andrew and a bunch of friends. They had fun right up to the very end!


With over 150 people in attendance, we were able to raise TWICE the amount generated from last year's efforts. So thanks so much to everyone who attended. For those who didn't attend, there's always next year. And if you are seriously into popular music, come see our pops concerts coming up in the beginning of June.

Posting again soon,

Paul

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quick Thoughts

It's been a busy few weeks for Cantus. We had a wonderful time in Kirkland, WA (at a very posh resort/spa/hotel), and Fullerton, CA (100+ degrees!). Eric and I (shown below trying to be super chillaxed since we're near a rock 'n roll museum) averted disaster when we decided to not go to the star-in-your-own-rock-band part of the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Just imagine us trying to sing and drum "Purple Haze." No.
We're looking forward to the National Lutheran Choir collaboration this weekend, and we'll also be welcoming James Frazier on the organ for an incredibly exciting movement from Duruflé's wonderful Messe Cum Jubilo.
Today, we went to St. Peter also, in our never-ending quest to seem cool to high schoolers across the country. We're in the thick of our Artist-In-Residence program, and we've been having a blast with the students. Thank you also to Como Park and Minnetonka for putting up with us sleepy heads that are usually still dreaming when they are warmed up for choir, and have taken several chemistry, social studies, and trigonometry quizzes by the time we are still groggily choosing between a half-grapefruit or Pop-Tarts. You all are doing great work, and we're looking forward to working with you more!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

"geeking out" in concert


Hi, Gang!  Returned but a few short hours ago from the Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds symphonic concert, which kicked off a world tour in Minneapolis last night at the Orpheum.  For those of you who have read my fuller bio on the Cantus website, you may not be surprised that I am a bit of a gamer, and a huge fan of Final Fantasy soundtrack composer Nobuo Uematsu.

While the majority of the music on these epic games has been synth-oriented, the more recent Final Fantasy soundtracks have included full orchestral and choral arrangements that rival Orff, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and other classical greats.  As a genre, the game soundtrack has certainly gained more respect over the past few years, graduating from the chintzy 8-bit days of Atari and Nintendo.  Game soundtracks are now being recorded by groups like the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and London Symphony.  The gaming public demands sound design comparable to a Hollywood picture, and Uematsu has been known for composing masterful songs and themes for twenty five years.

At home, we know a lot of this music by heart because my collection of game soundtracks actually far exceeds my collection of games--there are often multiple albums released with arrangements varying from fully orchestral to celtic-inspired, pop, and solo piano versions, and I have acquired quite a few of them.  

The show

I was happy to run into some Cantus fans in the audience, beginning not more than three minutes after I walked into the theater lobby!  Met four students over the course of the evening that we had taught: one from Iowa State glee club, and three from Sartell and Como Park, where Cantus has worked as clinicians and artists-in-residence.  (I think the kids were very surprised to see me as excited about the show as they were).  

The orchestra featured a lot of players I recognized from gigs around town, including a bunch of SPCO members.  Macalester College provided the chorus, and at one point some colleagues of mine got up on stage to perform a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Maria and Draco" an opera that takes place in one of the games.  Of course I am completely jealous--not begrudging anyone,  I just wish I could have found out who was contracting the darn show!  A local classical guitarist made a technically sound and very musical appearance on two pieces.  

Here's some footage from the show provided by another fan from last night's show:


 


It really was a festive atmosphere, with fans young and old (like me) cheering throughout the show.  New arrangements of some old favorites were fantastic, and the stage-mounted video screen displayed cut-scenes and gameplay throughout, often with comedic or heartfelt effect.

One down-side to the show, however, was the decision to blast the band through speakers on each side of the stage.  It made it seem as though the music was piped in, rather than being performed right there on stage.  It was disappointing to have the acoustic sound of players obliterated from only ten feet away.  Also, it highlighted a few loose seams in under-rehearsed parts (you can't get anything past the gamers--they know every note).  The concert would have been a better fit at Orchestra Hall, though a similar concert was cancelled there a couple of years ago because of lack of ticket sales.  The Orpheum's size and advertising push did help in that regard, even if the acoustics there are poorer.  the tour will soon be visiting the Baltimore and Dallas Symphonies, so I imagine the aural experience will be nicer at those venues. 

After the show

Uematsu made a few appearances on stage during the show (he's a very funny guy), and sat in the audience watching throughout.  After the show (because I had splurged on the good tickets!), we got to visit with both composer Uematsu and conductor Arnie Roth backstage.  The receiving line was long, but eventually we talked with them for a few minutes.

We got autographs and a picture, and passed on some Cantus CDs to them as gifts, expressing a wish that if Nobuo-San ever wants to write music for men's voices, that he please consider Cantus!   Both men were gracious, and patient sitting for photographs with all the fans coming through the line--a few hundred people for sure.  Audience members ask for Cantus autographs after shows pretty often, but it was neat to be seeking one myself.  

Hopefully the continuing tour of Distant Worlds will pick up steam (they actually encouraged recording and non-flash photography during the show--maybe we should take a clue here...), and bring some kids over who wouldn't normally attend an orchestral concert, and vice versa--bring a few classical concert-goers over to the genre of video game music.  







Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bad Babbitt

OK. This youtube video is sick. It has great dancing, great modern classical music, and a great jazz combo. What more can one ask for within the span of about a minute and a half?

Bad Plus' arrangement of Semi -Simple Variations by Milton Babbitt

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Three P's

Wow, two posts in one night, watch out.

I thought I would upload a few of my favorite photos from the last two tours. I call this post the Three P's (and yes, I know that this is technically an incorrect use of an apostrophe. Call it, "folksy.")

The first P stands for Pretzels. I love soft pretzels and in Amherst, MA I had the biggest soft pretzel ever. It was covered with melted, smoked cheddar cheese and served with spicy mustard. Mmmm.





The second P stands for Puppets (technically marionettes) . We stopped at a truck stop in Illinois that has this glass case full of dancing marionettes. The restaurant at the truck stop had amazing baked goods, including french pastries. I'm sure most truck drivers appreciate an eclair, Napoleon and a quick puppet show before hitting the road for another 15 hour shift. . .


The last but not least P stands for People. We've spent the last couple of days in Cedar Falls, IA. It's a cute, little river town that is also home to the University of Northern Iowa. The folks here have been very hospitable and we've had some great restaurant experiences. While in charming downtown Cedar Falls I happened upon a travel agency that bears my last name! I've never met anybody outside of my family with the last name, "Humble" so I was pretty excited!

We head home tomorrow to put together our collaboration with the James Sewell Ballet. Peace!

Aaron

Hello Everyone

Oh boy. I have never created a blog entry, so I hope this goes OK. Paul, one of our younger and more tech-savvy singers suggested we upload videos. I would have probably uploaded a video of the wall with just my ear and no sound. So for now, I'm sticking to basics.

Here is your introduction to, yours truly, Aaron Humble

1. General: Aaron David Humble, I'm a Tenor and I've sung with Cantus for Four Seasons

2. Past: I was born in Ravenna, Ohio and grew up in a tiny town called Diamond, OH. Actually, it was the township of Palmyra but out mailing address was Diamond. When I was in college my parents moved to Kent, Ohio. I usually just say Kent because some people actually know where Kent is--or at least that it exists. BUT, Dashon doesn't like it when I say Kent so now the truth is out--I'm from Palmyra/Diamond, Ohio.

3. I grew up in a house where music was part of life. Whether it was Peter, Paul and Mary on the radio in the car of singing hymns around the piano. I really started focusing on music in High School and, of course, in college. I attended Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois for undergraduate and continued on at Indiana University where I earned my Master of Music and Doctor of Music degrees. I have majors in vocal performance and literature and minors in theater, musicology, and choral conducting (across all of my studies).

4. Cantus: I decided to audition for Cantus after seeing an audition notice. What I like the most about singing with Cantus is the high level of artistry. Peformers rarely have the opportunity to sing a program as many times are we do. Over this number of repetitions, we have the opportunity to refine the product over and over again. It's a really gratifying experience.

5. Personal: When I'm not busy with Cantus there are a variety of things I like to do. I pick up extra gigs here and there and study and prepare solo repertoire as well. I enjoy cooking, baking, film and movies and enjoying the Twin Cities. One thing that is very cool about Minneapolis is that there are lakes and of course a bunch of parks right in the city! I love enjoying all of the natural beauty Minnesota has to offer while also enjoying the great urban lifestyle Minneapolis has to offer. It's a great place to live.

Well that's more than you probably ever wanted to know about me. Now that I've cut my teeth on all of this blogging business, hopefully I can get back on here more regularly. Take care and thanks for reading!

Peace,

Aaron

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Changing Spaces

We have ended our long New England tour successfully, and as usual, we have been met with unfailing kindness at every turn. We are so grateful to our fans and supporters, and will continue to bring you the highest level of music that we can, as our way of saying thanks for believing in us.
This has been a very interesting tour in terms of singing in different spaces. As many of you may know, the physical setting in which a group sings brings all sorts of benefits and challenges. The greatest challenge of all is adapting to each new room! A marble cathedral obviously sounds different than a conference room with padded walls and carpet, but it even goes beyond that. The size and shape of the room, instrumentation, ambient noise, size of the stage, and number of people in attendance, among other things all affect the sound that the audience and performers hear. For example, we just performed at the Northeastern Music Educators’ National Conference at the Providence Convention Center. They had to pack about 1,000 (rather enthusiastic) fans into the Grand Ballroom, which was the widest space that we’ve performed in recent memory. There were three sections, one directly in front of the stage that was flanked by two sections that had to watch us on live telecast in the same room! And on the very same tour, we sang in an intimate recital hall built especially for chamber music and smaller recitals, which was great for hearing, but since we don’t get to sing in spaces like that often, we had to adjust for the new sounds of different musical lines, or even different voices that we don’t hear every concert.
So, how do we deal with the ever changing scenery? One of the most important things for us is having a flexible and adaptable plan for performance that we’re able to implement during the rehearsal before the show. On an average concert day, we will have a two hour rehearsal before each show to figure out all sorts of technical elements of the night’s show. The other purpose of the rehearsal is to listen to the sound of the hall as our voices (individually and collectively) figure out how to fit into the space. We’ll make sure that we listen from stage as well as a few guys individually in the hall (when they’re not singing an important part on stage, of course) just to get a sense of what an audience member would hear.
Some important things that we try to remember as we are figuring out the acoustic: we try to sing with how our body tells us, not necessarily what we hear. The spaces can give weird feedback, so it’s not always to our benefit to “give ourselves voice lessons” as we sing. If something is not going well, we also try to stop often so we are not tiring ourselves out with things that aren’t working. On the flip side, we also try not to stop too often for every little strange thing that we hear, it’s important for us to try to simulate the experience trying to sing through clicks in the hall, or funny noises from our own voices during the show, when we can’t stop!
Once we’ve gotten through all of that stuff for the rehearsal, we just try to be as flexible during the performance as possible. Until you start the concert, it’s not possible to know how the sound is affected by the number of people in the audience, what you might feel like under stage lights after an hour, or even how your voice responds to a triple thick strawberry milkshake right before you go on stage (well, I suppose there are some things you can guess at).
The trust that we cultivate, and the amount of time that we spend together gives us the ability to know a lot about the voices of the other eight guys in the arc. We’re very lucky to be able to spend this much time together, but the amount of listening and connecting can start immediately in any group of musicians, if you work at it.
If you have any questions about the way we work, please don’t hesitate to ask us. You’ll find our contact information at the “Connect” heading of our website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cantus at Trinity Wall Street

Hey everyone,

This should have been put up a while back, but here is a link to the Trinity Wall Street concert in NYC a couple of weeks ago. It's only an hour long show, but it still has the eclectic mix of our touring program, and all (or most) of your favorites on it! We had a great time in both the educational outreach prior as well as the actual concert. Enjoy!

Trinity Wall Street Concert

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Music?

This speech, written for the incoming freshmen of the Boston Conservatory, explains clearly and vividly why music is so important to culture and to humanity. It is not just entertainment: It's a necessity. Thanks to my friend Katherine Griswold for posting this link on facebook. It reminded me of the reasons I continue to pursue what many people believe to be a "dying art".

Please read...you won't regret it.

Karl Paulnack's Speech to incoming freshmen

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eric Hopkins meets Eric Hopkins

I'm sitting here in Amherst, MA, in our hotel room resting up after our drive from Maine. We are currently in residence with the University of Massachusetts (aka: UMass) for the rest of this week before we wrap up our NE tour in Providence and Boston. Since this is my first blog post for Cantus Tales (and my first blog EVER!) I should introduce myself...My name is Eric N. Hopkins and I am in my second year singing Tenor with Cantus. I grew up on a hobby farm with sheep outside of Oregon, Illinois, a small town 100 miles west of Chicago. I think I came out of the womb singing (or maybe I was just fighting with my twin sister Edie for room!). I attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music in 1999. Being at Luther you would always hear about St. Olaf College, the "birthplace" of Cantus. They are both great music schools of the Lutheran tradition, and only two and a half hours apart from each other. After college I moved to Minneapolis and sang with many part-time choral groups including the Dale Warland Singers and then The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists. Cantus was alive and well in the Twin Cities, but I never thought I would ever be a part of them. It always seemed like such a fraternity and was off my radar. I heard of an opening for Cantus through a friend. I auditioned and was offered the position in January 2008. Since then I have been immersed into the Cantus lifestyle: rehearsing full-time, touring across the country, and memorizing music--AAARRGH! It was hard at first to get back into the routine of memorizing music, but it has become second-nature now.

A few years ago I started "googling" my own name to see what would come up. Actually not much...But the one person who did appear in every search was a watercolor artist in Maine. Once I knew we were going to Maine on a tour this spring, I did some research and found out that the artist Eric Hopkins lived just a few miles from where we were performing! I emailed Eric and he was excited. He brought his mother to the concert and we met afterward. The first thing his mother said to me is that I look just like her other son David. I responded by saying the "other" Eric looks just like Gary from Cantus! After much conversation we discovered that we are in fact distant cousins having the same relative Stephen Hopkins, who came to America on the Mayflower. Eric invited us to his gallery in Rockland, the next town south of Camden. A group of us from Cantus drove down Highway 1 to Rockland and visited the gallery. Eric's watercolors are fabulous. He uses huge canvases and bold colors to display the rocky and pine tree-laden coast and islands of Maine, where he has lived his whole life. We met his son Ian, and saw his expansive work space where he is currently experimenting with silk scarves and ties. It was great to be able to share my art and have Eric share his art with us. I can't wait to visit Maine again and hopefully spend more time with my new cousin!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brand New Alice Tully Hall



Hello All,
My name is Dashon Burton, and I am the Junior Senator of the Baritone Commonwealth of Cantus, and wish to have the floor to speak...
Cantus just arrived in NYC yesterday afternoon after some shady navigating (which way do we go, Dashon?). This is sort of a hometown for me, as I spent much of my childhood here, so it's always wonderful to see the sights, have some lovely food, take in the wonderful civil engineering that can fit 400 million people into 17 square feet (numbers are approximate).
After visiting with some friends, I met up with Cantus tenor Paul Rudoi at the brand new Alice Tully Hall (photo by Iwan Baan) at Lincoln Center. First, I have to echo Paul's sentiments: "50% of why I am here is for the orchestra, and the other 50% is for the architecture." It's an absolutely stunning building to see, and just to walk in is amazing too.
The celebrated orchestra was playing for the Opening Nights Festival which is ongoing until March 8. Last night, Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen renewed my sense of some very familiar works to me. Beethoven's First and Seventh symphonies were served with great vigor, and it's obvious that their continued dedication to this monumental cycle will produce more wonderful concerts and recordings. The camaraderie of the musicians was evident, and their structure is very similar to the way that Cantus started, which is always amazing to see. From their program bio: "Founded in 1980, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen initially consisted of a group of outstanding music students who drew up a grassroots constitution in order to optimally motivate the individual members both personally and musically ... The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is organized as a company in which the musicians are sole partners. Thus they assume full responsibility not only for artistic but financial matters as well." As a chamber musician it is always wonderful to share in the successes of other chamber ensembles as well as be inspired by them.
This virtuosic set of players truly dug into the music. Every bar was infused with life, and rarely have I heard such supreme musical nuance. The musicians played with a sense of clarity that made each line that they wanted you to focus on at the forefront. Mr. Järvi was clearly pleased with the results of his and the rest of the musicians' hard work, and I would say had the best "seat" in the house! Combine the musicians and the wonderful acoustics of the new hall, and you get quite a show. It was a technically, emotionally, and visually wonderful journey through two of my personal favorite Beethoven symphonies, and I couldn't really ask for an artistically better way to start a visit to NYC.
Also, for all of our connected audience across the country who can't make it to the concert at Trinity Wall Street on March 5 at 1PM (EST), just a reminder, they'll be broadcasting it LIVE on the internet, so do tune in!