About Cantus

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Cantus

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. Working without a conductor, the members of Cantus rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, each contributing to the entirety of the artistic process.

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 including New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Committed to the expansion of the vocal music repertoire, Cantus actively commissions new music and seeks to unearth rarely performed repertoire for men’s voices. Cantus has received commissioning grants from New Music USA, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chorus America, American Composers Forum and Chamber Music America. Additionally, Cantus has a rich history of collaborations with other performing arts organizations, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Pops, Chanticleer, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Theater Latté Da and the James Sewell Ballet. The ensemble is heard frequently on both classical public radio nationwide and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Cantus has released 18 recordings on the group’s self-titled label.

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.

Our Mission, Vision and Guiding Principles

Cantus engages audiences in a meaningful music experience and ensures the future of ensemble singing by mentoring young singers and educators. Cantus was founded on the ideals of collaborative music-making: artists and staff work together to reach new levels of artistic excellence, innovation and audience engagement. Our vision is to give voice to shared human experiences.

Our goals stem from four guiding principles:
Vital: Cantus is known or and delivers artistic excellence, leadership as a collaborative organization and compelling programming.
Relevant: Cantus inspires audiences seeking a meaningful music experience and influences students who aspire to making singing a part of their life-long artistic experience.
Accessible:  Cantus offers multiple ways for audiences to experience our music and uses its knowledge, flexibility and resources to expand and deepen the audience experience.
Sustainable:  Cantus fosters meaningful and rewarding work for the organization’s most important resources—artists, staff and board—to succeed in carrying out our mission and in serving our audience.

Our Process

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. By the time a piece is on stage, each singer has had his chance to help build the performance. 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.