Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cantus 2009-10 Season Wrapup

Greetings, Cantus fans!

Time to offer thanks to all the fans we’ve seen this year across the country, and in Cantus’ hometowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Thanks are also due to our Board of Directors and close friends of the organization, who helped to shepherd the company through organizational restructuring, and a fantastic success with our annual fundraiser, which exponentially grew this year.

For next year, we look forward to presenting a lot of music a little closer to home, fulfilling grants, and as Minnesota Public Radio’s Artists in Residence for the 2010-11 season!

Listen for Cantus throughout the year on MPR, and across the state of Minnesota, often in underserved and varied communities. Our Artist in Residence program will see us regularly masterclassing students in three Minnesota high schools, culminating in a combined concert in the spring.

Our touring program is called Before Us, and in it perform songs and stories of the immigrant journey to America, with music from Leonard Bernstein, the French Voyageurs, William Billings, Lee Hoiby, and Simon and Garfunkel to name a few.

If you missed them, here’s a chance to see a video clip of our recent pop shows!

If you haven’t yet done so yet, please visit with us on Facebook, where we have a thriving community of friends, fans, families, and of course, the Cantus artists.

Here's some scenes from the past season for you!

See you next season (we kick off new performances in September)!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

All work and no play? Not this tour...

Yesterday, after performing at the beautiful Hotchkiss School Summer Portals program in Lakeville, CT, four rabidly passionate soccer fans in Cantus ventured out early in search of the perfect place to watch the World Cup semifinal #2: Germany v. Spain. Paul, Chris, Gary and myself (Adam) left early and drove up to the Massachusetts shore. Cantus will be performing on Thursday night in Rockport, MA, a lovely little sea town with a very grown-up Performing Arts Center. As we arrived at our accommodations for the next two nights, The Linden Tree Inn, we were told that no pub or restaurant in Rockport would be showing the match. Aaarrrggghh, thought we. We were told to head down to nearby Gloucester (which some folks might remember as the setting for this George Clooney-Mark Walberg vehicle). In downtown Gloucester, we found a superb little pub, called the Topside, and plunked ourselves down for lunch and football (I mean soccer). One lobster, two bowls of clam chowder, and a host of other local nubbins, not to mention the soccer beverage of choice, we were ready for the match. Gary, sporting his 1998 Germany WC shirt, and Chris threw their support cleanly behind Die Mannschaft (German for 'The Team'). Adam, a Spanish soccer fan since the early '90s, would have worn the Spanish national team shirt he received as a gift in 2000, if it had fit. Paul was decidedly neutral. The match was a joy: skillful soccer played without cheating or feigning injury (long a complaint of U.S. soccer semi-fans) and on the few threatening occasions in the first half, each side encouraged a bit of volume out of cheering supporters. In the 73rd minute, off a wonderfully struck corner, Spain took the lead, much to Adam's enjoyment. In fact, that sequence at the pub went very much like this:

(Spain scores, after many close efforts)
Chris: Dude, quiet down.
Bartender: No, really, quiet down a bit.
Adam: Sorry. Yeah! Yeah!
Gary: Rub it in, much?
Adam: Yes. Sorry.

Following the glorious Spanish victory (sorry Gary and Chris), we then trotted out to sit by the sea on the little patch of beach in downtown Rockport. Watching the tide come in, and the sun set, we were reminded of how great it was to have a job that allowed us to make music full-time and paid us to travel to these exquisite locales. Paul and Chris decided to swim out to a landing about 200 yards from shore, while Gary and Adam talked about the concert the night before. When it was time for some dinner, Paul and Chris back-stroked to shore. We left Chris lying on the beach, mostly in recovery, to return to the Linden Tree Inn for supper. After some time, the rest of the Cantus gang arrived and said that they had passed a sleeping man on the beach, realized it was Chris, and promptly harassed him into joining them for dinner.

It was a slow, beautiful, and relaxing day. Got the blood pumping with some swimming and cheering on the best soccer nations in the world, sampled some local cuisine (and about 80 oz. of local beverages), took in the breath-taking shoreline, and enjoyed the company of colleagues I'm lucky enough to call friends. All in all, a good day. Check our Facebook page to see more pictures of our tour 0ff-day. Ta ta, friends!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

Covers3 kicks off tonight.

Normally I'd wait to do a blog post after an event has happened, but just was getting so excited to kick off this year's pop shows that I decided to write anyway.

It's Covers time again, and it looks like we might sell out every show! Cantus is very happy to bring back our friends Lee Blaske (commercial musician extraordinaire and husband to Twin Cities soprano Maria Jette), Dave Hagedorn (probably the best vibes player I've ever heard), percussionist Rikki Davenport (the cool guy playing tabla, congas, and djembe), and Mark Ilaug (playing sitar, guitars, and funky hair). Foss is back on guitar, I'm playing bass again, and we're presenting thirteen (!) new arrangements this year, done by nearly every member of Cantus, with music by Beck, America, Fleetwood Mac, Steven Stills, and the Beatles. By popular request, we have more a cappella in store for the evening, but the band is providing new colors and styles to the mix.

Tickets are available @ticketworks.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cantus with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Here you go, Chris!
Cantus with the SPCO and the incredible Kelley O'Connor.

Cantus Idol 2010

Just thought it would be a good idea to post at least ONE picture from Idol this year. Courtesy of our awesome photographer for this year's event, Jen Smith!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Terrible Pauls-y

Dear Cantus fans:

Well, it's been a pretty crazy last couple of weeks for us. May has been the month of Pauls - Not only did Paul Rudoi (Cantus Idol 2010) fend off some stiff competition, but Cantus sang alongside some pretty talented musicians you may have heard of: The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Well, not really alongside, but rather in front of, as you can see here:

Wait, no... that's the Boston Pops. Ah, here it is:

Um, whoops. That's actually Cantus with Bobby McFerrin. Hmmm... how about:

NO!!!! What is the National Lutheran Choir featuring Cantus members doing here?!?! What happened? Why can't we find the picture of Cantus with the SPCO? Oh, maybe it's because THERE ISN'T ONE!!!

Does anyone out there happen to have a photo of Cantus with the SPCO? Send it our way.

As far as the concert goes, it was pretty neat. Not only did we share the stage with the world-class musicians of the SPCO, but the concert also featured mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Conner for Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. You can find out more about her here. SPOILER ALERT!! - she has an amazing voice.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Great Title Debate

For Cantus, marketing our product is everything. What is the Cantus product? Well, we hope it is wonderfully performed men's vocal music over a wide variety of genres and themes. But, like big for-profit companies, the question becomes How do we begin to market that product? When it comes to products like Recordings, the packaging helps to illuminate the themes present on the album. But what is really meant to grab the imagination is the Title! Recently, Cantus conducted a very informal survey of friends and family, gauging thoughts and interest in two different titles for an album we are recording this summer. We asked which of the two was most intriguing...and received equal votes for both. So, one time only on the Cantus blog, I'll pose the same question to you, faithful readers. The album is a collection of American Sacred music. Which of the two titles below is more representative of the American Sacred music theme, and which one 'intrigues you more':

1) That Eternal Day
2) A Love That Never Dies

Cantus is excited to see your responses. After all, our readers are our market! Please post responses below.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Artist In Residence and Cantus Idol!

This past weekend we had our second annual Artist In Residence concert at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Bloomington. It was a blast in so many ways! Earlier this season we had a Festival Day where, for a morning and an afternoon, the students in the program worked with Cantus and their teachers on several "mass choir" pieces that were programmed for the concert. The idea was to bring the students together and give them a chance to meet each other before the actual performance. It made the concert that much more exciting, almost like a reunion of sorts! This year our three schools were Robbinsdale Armstrong High School, Cambridge-Isanti High School, and South High School. Each of them had a set to sing, and they all did wonderfully. This is a special shout out to those schools... Thank you, and we loved working with you!

Now we are preparing for the remainder of the season, working with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra on Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins and our awesome collaborators for our 3rd annual Cantus Covers Concert. But before we get there, we have some time to unleash our inner pop or rock personalities.

It's CANTUS IDOL 2010, coming up on May 10th (two Mondays from now!), and it shaping up to be a really fun event, with emcee Erin Schwab, a new pack of judges, a live auction to benefit Cantus' educational outreach efforts, and a new location at The Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. Each of us has been trying to figure out, under the radar of course, what the others are performing, but it looks like most of these songs will be heavily guarded secrets until that evening. That being said, the show itself isn't much of a secret anymore, with over three quarters of our tickets already gone! If you want to get in on the action, follow this LINK to secure your seats.

Just in case you're curious, the descriptions for the items in the live auction can be found below. If I were bidding on something, I'd definitely put my money on "Own It All". Remember, along with the collection of music found on our regular CDs, there are tracks that have NEVER been released on that DVD!

Hope all of you can make it, and thanks for reading!

Say “happy birthday” with true style or arrange a serenade under your true love’s balcony. A quartet of Cantus singers will punctuate a special occasion or event with a song. Like a singing telegram… but way cooler.

If you have ever found yourself sitting in the audience at a Cantus concert and had to stop yourself from standing up and joining in, tonight’s the night! Join Cantus on stage later this evening for "It’s Alright" by Curtis Mayfield. While you sing your heart out, Cantus will make you sound like a pro. Don’t worry, we’ll all clap…no matter what.

Have you ever stood in front of shelves of wine and picked your bottle based on the label? Let Cantus do the picking for you! The singers and Board of Cantus have selected twenty bottles of red and white wine to enhance any occasion. Each bottle comes with an explanation of why we chose it for you. Cheers!

Be the envy of the Cantus fan world! The guys raided the archives and created a one-of-kind audio DVD with every piece Cantus has released… and several they have not. It’s a collection sure to put your sound system through its paces. They have also included a framed and signed photo of their smiling mugs to beautify your home.

Treat your friends and family to a Cantus concert in your home or backyard! You provide the home and up to ten guests and we provide the rest. The singers will entertain with a 45-minute set. Board members Amanda Davisson and Tom Northenscold will serve as your personal chef and sommelier.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Questions for Cantus!

As we are near the culmination of our touring season, we recently asked members of the group some questions about their interests, pastimes, and favorite activities. TIme to find out vital information from some singers this week: get to know what makes Cantus singers tick!

Most Recent Book You Read:

Tim Takach: I read The Colorado Kid by Stephen King over Christmas, and surprisingly I didn't like it. It was a short, pulp fiction paperback, and I get what he was did with the story, but it left me needy.

Aaron Humble: The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. by Bill Bishop

Matt Tintes: Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

Toughest Thing You Sing this Season:

Matt Tintes: Mountain Nights. Seriously! It's hard for me to be that quiet.

Gary Ruschman: There's one section of the Schubert that just goes too fast to breathe!

Aaron Humble: I'm guessing it will be something in the Weill!


Aaron Humble: Work smarter not harder.

Gary Ruschman: Fearful people do stupid things.

Matt Tintes: It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

Tim Takach: Work hard. Play harder. Eat plenty of bacon.

Guilty Pleasure TV:

Tim Takach: I only watch two shows, Lost and Heroes, both about a season and a half behind on DVD, and neither are guilty pleasures. I enjoy being a geek. My favorite goes to Battlestar Galactica.

Matt Tintes: Oh God, too many to count. Let's say..."Smallville".

Gary Ruschman: Police Chases!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Peace after Easter

Yesterday, Cantus sang as part of the Artists for Peace event put on by the Nonviolent Peaceforce at the O'Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul. We were performing alongside some notable Twin Cities artists: Butch Thompson, Pat Donohue, Noah Brandow, Prudence Johnson, Sabine Perrin, Peter Johnson, and T. Mychael Rambo. Each of these artists have a different sound and different audience, and to bring everyone together was very moving and impactful. Cantus sang a 10 minute set of There Is A Meetin' Here Tonight, Wanting Memories, and Miagete Goran Yoru no Hoshi wo, then led the audience in a sing-a-long of the great folk song 'Let There Be Peace on Earth'. The entire evening closed with a rousing group-sing of 'Down By the Riverside', complete with wonderfully peace-laden lyrics and Cantus gentlemen singing with exuberant enthusiasm. We enjoy having a chance to really rip into a big-time sing-a-long like that and with everyone on stage, it sounded great!

Yesterday's event followed a very nice Easter weekend for me. After working quite a bit throughout the week, my wife and I took a much-needed trip up to the MN/Canada border to visit her father in the tiny little town of Birchdale, MN. Usually at this time of year, the snow is still on the ground up in Birchdale. But this year, the balmy weather of the Twin Cities carried up to the border, making the entire weekend a snow-free affair, even if there was a bit of rain. Birchdale is about 45 mins slightly NW of International Falls, MN--the coldest place in the lower 48. It was a great Easter weekend, with great food and a wonderfully relaxing atmosphere. Unfortunately, we didn't get to go fishing on the Rainy River, due to the rain, but the day that we returned to St. Paul, my father in-law Kit did catch a 32-inch walleye.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lunch in St. Louis

Driving from Springfield, MO to Muncie, IN yesterday, we found ourselves in St. Louis at lunchtime. We decided to stop at a place called Frazer's in the Benton Park neighborhood, which proved to satisfy everyone's appetites. The weather was beautiful, so we even sat outside! A luxury virtually unheard of for March in Minnesota.
The sweet potato bread was the perfect amuse-bouche, whether one awaited the horseradish/pecan/breadcrumb-encrusted salmon over mustard sauce or the hearty, flavor-rich slice of chorizo/ground beef meatloaf, wrapped in bacon.
When you view their website, be sure to scroll through the daily-updated "specials" list... If you're not about to sit in a mini-van for five more hours, do yourself a favor and order from the daily-updated "desserts" list.
Oh, and sitting in front of the restaurant, one has a clear view of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. You might want to schedule a walking tour after your meal. The health benefits of the walk notwithstanding (it's a big place, so you might actually get some exercise!), some would suggest that the end of the tour would also provide a satisfying finish to your gastronomic enjoyment that afternoon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

His Old Kentucky Home

Well, we certainly experienced some wonderful hospitality this weekend in Erlanger, Kentucky. Tenor Gary Ruschman brought us down to his alma mater, Northern Kentucky University, to perform at Greaves Hall.

There was a little time for sightseeing and experiencing some local flavor, so a few of the guys made a trip to Skyline Chili and another group visited St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington to view the famous stained glass windows.

On beautiful days like we had this weekend, though, and in anticipation of long driving days, most of our off hours are spent relaxing, enjoying some sunshine and fresh air and catching up on work.

No matter what, it's always fun to perform in one of the artists' hometown and meet family/friends while we're there. Many thanks to Gary's family for making us feel so welcome this weekend. We hope to be back again soon.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Shaz!

In honor of Shahzore's birthday today, I thought I would post a fun birthday video. We are from the Sesame Street generation, so this is very appropriate!

Watch and enjoy.

Happy Birthday Shaz!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Drumming at Red Lake

On March 1st, Cantus visited the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Northern Minnesota. It was an amazing that none of us will ever forget! We sang for over 600 elementary school students in the afternoon, and in the evening we held a concert for the general community.

In between these two events we were blessed to see several performance by the elementary school's dance troupe, accompanied by an authentic drumming circle. We decided it would be great to post one of the videos we recorded that day. You could feel the gymnasium's bleachers shaking with each beat of the drum, and the dancers' intricate clothing chimed away with other fascinating sounds.

We hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

“The stars at night are big and bright (clap, clap, clap, clap), deep in the heart of…” well, somewhere. I forget how that song goes. Anyway, Cantus was just in Texas! It was a great week, and I’m sure you want to read all about our shenanigans. Well, alright, I’ll tell ya, but I have to say, I don’t appreciate the condescending tone. “Shenanigans”? More like “Adventures” thank you very much.

This is Matt Tintes (baritone) and I just wanted you all to know that Cantus just spent an awesome week in Texas, touring to the cities of Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio. We sang in some wonderful spaces and met a lot of wonderful people. People who fed us a LOT of great Mexican food! They say everything’s bigger in Texas. Well, as our waist lines can now attest, they weren’t kidding!

When we’re on tour we stop to eat at all kinds of places, but usually when we’re traveling we just go the places closest to the Interstate. Well in our endeavor to find a, let’s say “Panera”, one day, we came upon an eatery called…are ya ready... “Cantus’”! We sat down and a nice young girl came to wait on us and was wearing a t-shirt that read Cantus’. We asked her if we could get that shirt, and her look of confusion conveyed a sense of “Either y’all have girlie tastes in t-shirts, or that’s the most to-the-point pick up line I’ve heard in a while.” After some hasty explanation we met the owner, Mark Cantu, and he gave us all Cantus’ drink holders, and we gave him a CD. We almost sang for him, but we didn’t want to compete with the Kid Rock album that had been playing…for nearly an HOUR…not that I’m complaining.

When we arrived at our hotel in San Antonio we were greeted by the hotel’s official mascot, Luke the Dog. Luke was a welcome sight for those of us who were missing our pets back in MN, and he was a good dog. A good, good dog. Yes you are! Yes you ARE! You’re a good doggie…

After our matinee performance in San Antonio, myself, Shahzore, Eric, Gary and Paul walked over to look at the Alamo, which was only a few blocks from our hotel. I took a photo of the group in front of the “Shrine to Texas Liberty”, but unfortunately my camera isn’t letting me upload that photo, so here’s one of the fa├žade that I took with my phone. I also took a picture of the interior of the Alamo…which I wasn’t supposed to. Do you SEE what I’m willing to risk for you loyal blog readers?!?

All in all, our Texas trip was a ton of fun! It was great to sing for the people of Texas, and to enjoy the weather. However, regarding the weather, since they started recording weather patterns (125 years ago) it had only snowed in San Antonio 31 times. On our second day, it became 32 times. I SWEAR we didn’t mean to bring it with us!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cantus Gets Schooled!

As I was sitting at my desk today, catching up on my email, I was thinking back to the concert we performed last night for all the students participating in the Minnesota Music Education Association All-State Choir. Every year they have rehearsals for their big concert at the same church where we practice every day: Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis. There was this buzz of musical energy radiating through the hallways and rooms of Westminster yesterday as we were preparing to start our own rehearsal. You could hear the different choirs rehearsing in all the different rooms around the church. It brought me back to my high school days, singing with the All-State choir in Peoria, Illinois. I recently transferred my All-State cassette tapes onto CD's in order to sync them to my iPod. Luckily I got a little help from my father-in-law and the CD-recorder in his choir classroom. (Yeah, we didn't get our recordings on fancy discs or download cards back then!)

This year's All-State was special because we offered to sing a concert for the students after their last rehearsal. All 300 young singers, directors and section leaders crowded into the Great Hall and gave us a thunderous applause as a representative from MMEA welcomed us onto the stage. It made me remember why I love my job so much: not just as a singer in Cantus, but also as the Education Outreach Coordinator.

Throughout the year, we as Cantus travel around America and sing about 70-80 concerts per season. What many people don't know is that we also visit about 40 different schools while on those tours of the country, reaching out to over 10,000 students per year. Cantus is a mission-driven organization striving to keep the art of singing alive, especially in young men. We show kids and adults of all ages how to love singing and how to sing better by visiting their schools and performing for them and with them.

Cantus offers all types of outreach opportunities for students: in-school concerts (great for elementary students), choir master classes, lecture/demonstrations, collaborations and day-long workshops for your choir, and "Get Your Guys Singing": a special workshop where Cantus works with all the men of your choirs in order create camaraderie and pride in your men that will enrich the rest of their musical lives. A full menu and description of all our types of outreach are available on our website. We even have an Artist in Residence program where we choose three Minnesota high schools every year who receive four or five visits from Cantus, and a grand concert with all the schools at the end of the year. ALL FOR FREE! We have generous donors and grant-funding which help us implement this great program. Applications for the Cantus AIR program are also available on our website on the Artist in Residence page.

The best part of a Cantus outreach is how all the members of Cantus work collaboratively with your organization. Collaboration is evident in every aspect of Cantus. It's how we choose music, it's how we run a rehearsal, and it's even how we choose where to eat when we are on the road. All the guys work together during every outreach to bring their individual vocal specialties to your choir to achieve the best sound possible. Whether Adam is talking about breathing, or Gary is talking about phrasing, we all "team-teach" to provide a well-rounded education experience for your students.

For more specific information, or to contract Cantus for your school, please email us at:

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Cantus chooses the music we sing

On Wednesday of this week, the artists of Cantus will be doing a little programming...choosing the music we will perform. In this case it will involve choosing music for our 2010-2011 Touring Program 'Before Us'. With this program, we will be using American music to show how people that have come before us have found their 'American Identity'. In this program, William Billings' (1746-1800) 'Lamentation over Boston' will be paired with 'Gravedigger' from Dave Matthews (of the Dave Matthews Band). But how does Cantus get those two pieces into the same program?

First, the Cantus artists brainstorm themes and stories that we want to explore: along with 'Before Us' for 2010-11, we've also selected the theme of 'On the Shoulders of Giants' for our 2011-12 Touring Program. That title is derived from Sir Isaac Newton's quotation 'If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants', an obvious homage to the great thinkers that came before him. To Cantus' end, that means masterworks for men's voices by master composers: Liszt, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, and more. But that's only a first half; the second half will speak of a different type of 'giants'--larger-than-life personalities and folk heroes like Frankenstein, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, and Goliath, just to name a few.

But I digress. After a theme has been chosen, we then bring our favorite music, old or new, classical or more popular, to a meeting. For a Cantus program, good music is good music, and if it fits our theme and better tells the story, it goes on the program, even if that means pairing William Billings with Dave Matthews. Typically, we begin with about 100 pieces for each theme, submitted by all the singers. All pieces are listened to or sung through by the whole ensemble, and then fun really begins: discussing, eliminating, re-arranging, choosing, and finally, selecting a suitable program order for the chosen pieces. I would estimate it takes us 4-5 hours of meeting time to put together a program we all love and are excited to sing. It is a time-consuming process, and might look a lot like how the U.S. Congress works, but it is an extremely important process. Inevitably, every single artist in the ensemble has a piece they suggested on the program, and as we sing a program every night, we see that person's tastes and artistic sensibilities on stage. It also gives each artist a greater 'buy-in' into the musical process and overall product, invaluable for an artist-led ensemble.

By the way, Cantus loves suggestions from fans and audience members, so if you have a favorite piece or poem that fits our program themes, let us know. Comment on this blog post with your suggestions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cantus goes to Shakertown

One of the best parts of touring with Cantus is the opportunity to experience new places. As part of our Southern Tour, I got to visit a place I've always wanted to go. I'm talking about the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. An Active Shaker Community until 1910, restoration began in the 1960s. Today it's on the register of historic places and it's an incredibly cool place to visit. Walking to breakfast the morning after sleeping incredibly soundly, I couldn't believe how active and cheerful the birds sounded. In the West Family Dwelling, I was greeted by a friendly cat lounging on a couch in the first floor living area. I've always been intrigued by Shaker life. But after spending a night in this beautiful village, I decided to share my enthusiasm on the Cantus blog!

There are many things about the Shakers that I find intriguing and admirable.
  • They live in community
  • They value hard work
  • They value quality and aesthetics
  • They prefer natural beauty over decoration
  • They value vocal music
  • They believe that men and women should be equal in the church
  • The highest ranking member of the church was held by a woman (Mother Ann)
Like the Quakers, the Shakers fled Europe because of religious persecution. Living in community, the Shakers lived celibate lives and grew only through recruitment or adoption (until laws changed forbidding religious communities from adopting children). As the industrial revolution opened up more opportunities for urban careers and dwellings, the Shaker communities began to decline. Even though the Shaker Church only claimed 6000 members at it's largest, the dedication to craftsmanship and music allow them to enjoy an important part in the annals of American history.

I'm sure you've heard of Shaker furniture or Shaker design. The simplicity
of their lives is tangibly represented in their handiwork. Shaker furniture is beautifully designed with clean lines and made for function. The wood is treated to enhance the natural beauty of the wood but also to preserve it for decades to come. Likewise, the Shakers poured an incredible amount of time into writing and singing music. Since they sang unaccompanied in worship, the human voice was incredibly important to them. Not only did they sing in worship they also danced. The dances often followed a pattern as the worshippers sang and marched in a single-file line through the meeting room. Although they wrote volumes of beautiful unison melodies and harmonized hymns,
"Simple Gifts" is, by far, their greatest hit.

There is one Shaker Community left in the United States. They open their services to the public and are still accepting new members.

For more information about a lovely retreat to Shakertown in Pleasantville, KY click here.

For more information about the Shakers, click here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Greetings, Cantus friends and frienemies! This is Chris Foss, here to tell you all that after a restful holiday break, Cantus is back in the touring saddle again. Last weekend found us down in the great metropolis of Omaha, NE.

Now, I know what you're all thinking: "Omaha? Isn't that where nice, friendly, well-educated people frequent one of the best-sounding performance halls in the country?" Well, I am here to tell that is completely correct! Cantus performed at the Holland Center, a newly built hall that opened in 2005, where the Omaha Symphony has been known to carry a tune. It is absolutely one of the most gorgeous-sounding halls Cantus has ever sung in. From the first time we set foot through the doors, to the last chord of the show, we were blown away by the friendly acoustics.

The show also featured a guest choir made up of high school men from the Omaha public schools. Although the original plan was to spend most of the day before the show in a festival format, it had to be cancelled because the wind chill in Omaha was around -40 degrees (which is cold
even for us Minnesotans). Instead, Cantus spent a couple hours before the show working with the kids in a masterclass format, answering their questions, and sharing a few of our rehearsal tips with them. Then during the show, we had the choir up on stage with us, singing a beautiful rendition of Franz Beibl's Ave Maria. All in all, it was an experience that Cantus (and I'm sure everyone else who was there) will not soon forget!

Oh, and did I mention that Omaha is my hometown? I didn't?! That's probably because I'm too humble to mention that singing a concert in my hometown in an amazing hall with one of the greatest ensembles in the country was absolutely a dream come true. What can I say? It must be my modest midwestern up-bringing.