Cantus’s Chorus Men’s A Cappella Sounds Off

Betsy Bloom

At Colgate, a cappella in the Chapel is nothing new. Our talented cam­pus groups routinely perform concerts in the space, drawing members of the student body, faculty, staff and community alike to their shows. How­ever, last Sunday the Colgate community got to experience a different kind of a cappella: the all male vocal com­pany Cantus performed “On the Shoulders of Giants,” a beautiful concert sponsored by the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation and the Department of Music at Colgate University.

Cantus, comprised of nine ex­tremely passionate and talented members, was recently hailed as the “premiere men’s vocal ensemble in the United States” by Fanfare magazine. The group is based in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota but travels often for both national and international tours. In addition to per­forming all over the world, Cantus has been awarded a number of prestigious honors for their work. They received the Margaret Hill’s Award for Choral Excellence in 2009 and served as 2010-11 Artists in Residence on Minnesota Public Radio. The ensemble also recently appeared on NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion,” and has worked in partnership with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra and the Boston Pops. They have released a total of 14 albums, all to positive critical acclaim.

The group is also committed to doing good. Cantus works closely with schools to protect and further music in classrooms. The ensemble works with students of all ages to increase awareness and provide mentor­ship. The Cantus High School Residency Program provides three Minne­sota schools with the benefit of working closely with Cantus for an entire year, at no charge. The program also offers complimentary tickets to a Cantus concert, as well as two in-school concerts: one given by Cantus and a final collaborative concert at the end of the year.

Colgate was lucky enough to have this talented and involved group visit campus for a three hour concert. The members of Cantus pride themselves on mixing classic works with more modern fare. Their concert on Sunday included selections from Schubert and Mendelssohn, but also from more contemporary artists like Michael Jackson and U2.

Adam Reinwald, one of the group’s two baritones, paused briefly in between sets to ask the question, “Why do we create music?” In re­sponse to this question, he quoted Samuel Coleridge, “Art is the recon­ciler of nature and man.” The group then moved into a series of songs about nature and the natural world, some more serious than others: “Die Nacht,” a soft, beautiful piece com­posed by Franz Schubert provided an entirely different experience than “Badn-Lat,” a Norweigan tune by Edvard Grieg about a cat who must travel north to Denmark for winter (complete with convincing cat noises by tenor Shahzor Shah).

Another section of the perfor­mance was inspired by the theme of remembrance. The set began with Gordon Lightfoot’s beautiful narra­tive ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The song, one of the few to receive musical accompaniment, tells the haunting tale of a ship wrecked at sea. The use of guitar and accordion only added to the beauti­ful melancholy of the song. During this set, Cantus also gave a beautiful rendition of the memorial “MLK” by U2, arranged by Bob Chilcott.

The ensemble performed a total of 26 songs, each one an impres­sive display of individual and collaborative talent. The concert was a wonderful opportunity for the Colgate community to experience something a little different on a Sunday afternoon.

Contact Betsy Bloom at [email protected]