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by Timothy Robson

CantusAkron’s Tuesday Musical opened its 126th season on September 24 at E.J. Thomas Hall in fine fashion with the Twin Cities-based, nine-voice men’s vocal ensemble Cantus. Cantus has distinguished itself from other male vocal ensembles – especially the San Francisco-based Chanticleer – by using the traditional configuration of tenors, baritones and basses, rather than also including male altos and sopranos. Throughout this concert, Cantus was a model of beautiful vocal sound, unanimity of ensemble and thoughtful, intriguing programming.

The title of Cantus’s program was “A Place for Us,” taken from a phrase in Stephen Sondheim & Leonard Bernstein’s song “Somewhere” in West Side Story. Spoken narrative linked the individual numbers together with poetry and excerpts from prose works expressing the experience of home, and how we know that a place is home to us.

An abbreviated version of “Somewhere” opened the concert, which was followed by the traditional Protestant hymn “This is my song” sung to the main theme from Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia. Cantus member Chris Foss’s complex arrangement of a traditional fiddle song followed, using jazz scat syllables to depict a country fiddler going at it. Read the rest of this entry »

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by Daniel Hathaway

CantusCantus, the nine-member male a cappella vocal ensemble from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, will open Tuesday Musical’s new season on September 24 at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron with a program entitled “A Place for Us.”

Cantus was born at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN when four singers — three of them cellists — found something missing in their musical lives. “In midwestern universities, you usually join a gender choir during your first year then have the opportunity to try out for a school’s flagship ensemble,” Cantus tenor Aaron Humble told us in a telephone conversation. “The guys that originally got together were missing that gender experience during their second year, so they formed a male voice ensemble that also reflected their interest in chamber music.”

Cantus became a professional ensemble in 2000, eventually shedding its original founders, who moved on to other things. “It took a lot of optimism — and maybe even some naiveté to keep the ensemble going — and singers were cutting pie at Bakers Square before the group could pay a full-time salary.” Unlike some other male-voice ensembles, Cantus remained true to its original tenor, baritone and bass configuration. “I often miss the sound of treble voices more than I knew I could,” Humble said, “but there’s something truly remarkable about the TTBB sound and the way low voices can generate overtones.” Read the rest of this entry »

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