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Cantus – Biography

Season Listing | Biography | Program

The “engaging” (New Yorker) men’s vocal ensemble Cantus is widely known for its trademark warmth and blend, innovative programming and engaging performances of music ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century. The Washington Post has hailed the Cantus sound as having both “exalting finesse” and “expressive power” and refers to the “spontaneous grace” of its music making. The Philadelphia Inquirer called the group nothing short of “exquisite.”

As one of the nation’s few full-time vocal ensembles, Cantus has grown in prominence with its distinctive approach to creating music. Cantus performs more than 60 concerts each year both in national and international touring, and in its home of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Cantus has performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, UCLA, San Francisco Performances, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall, and Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

In their 2018-19 touring program Alone Together, Cantus explores what it means to connect in a modern world where our ability to communicate has never been easier or more advanced, but where the rifts between nations, among communities, and in individual relationships only seem to widen. The program is anchored by three works written for Cantus by Steven Sametz, David Lang and a new, multi-movement work by Libby Larsen, commissioned by Music Accord and written specifically around themes of technology and connection in our modern world. The program – also weaving in music by Jennifer Higdon, Laura Mvula, McCartney and Lennon, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, Dave Matthews, Arcade Fire, and Sydney Guillaume – will be presented in 36 cities and 21 states and provinces.

Cantus is the recipient of three prestigious Chorus America awards, including the 2016 Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (Presented in partnership with the American Composers Forum), the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the Education Outreach Award. Cantus was also Artist in Residence on Minnesota Public Radio and on American Public Media’s Performance Today.

Integral to the Cantus mission is its commitment to preserve and deepen music education in the schools. Cantus works with more than 5,000 students each year in master class and workshop settings across the country. Now in its eleventh year, the award-winning High School Residency program brings Cantus into Minnesota schools several times a year for mentoring and a culminating public concert in the spring.

Cantus is an artist-led ensemble, so the process that is used for preparing and rehearsing music is a unique one. A complete democracy in the rehearsal room would be an inefficient use of time, so each piece performed is assigned to one of the singers to produce. This producer is responsible for initial interpretation, leading the allotted rehearsal time, and quality control on the fundamentals (notes, rhythms, tuning, vowel choice, etc.). Once these basics are established, the producer also facilitates discussion of interpretation and execution from the entire group. This collaborative work style allows Cantus to be more flexible, adaptive and ready to embrace new ideas. The performance that you enjoy – whether in a recording or in a live concert – is one that would be entirely impossible without the artistic involvement of the entire ensemble.

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