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!