The “intellectually, emotionally and musically rich” (Star Tribune) nine-member men’s vocal ensemble Cantus is known worldwide for its trademark warmth and blend and its 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. Cantus performs more than 60 concerts each year both in national and international touring, and in its home of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Past performances have brought Cantus to the stages of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, UCLA, San Francisco Performances, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall and Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival The 2015-2016 season sees Cantus perform twice in New York with Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concerts and Music Mondays, and in Denver, Tucson, Detroit and Washington DC at the National Gallery of Art among numerous other North American engagements. The ensemble made its first visit to Colombia (South America) in September 2015.
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. This collaborative work style allows Cantus to be more flexible, adaptive and ready to embrace new ideas. The performance—whether in a recording or in a live concert—is one that would be entirely impossible without the artistic involvement of the entire ensemble.
In their 2015-16 touring program, The Four Loves, Cantus explores the four different sides of this unquantifiable emotion – romantic, familial, friendly and unconditional love – with music by Poulenc, Grieg, Beethoven and Bobby McFerrin, along with newly commissioned works exploring each of the four loves by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang, Roger Treece, Joseph Gregorio and Ysaye Barnwell.
Committed to the expansion of the vocal music repertoire, Cantus actively commissions new music for men’s voices. In addition to The Four Loves composers Lang, Treece, Barnwell and Gregorio, Cantus has commissioned Sarah Kirkland Snider, Nico Muhly and Byron Adams. Cantus has received commissioning grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, American Composers Forum and Chamber Music America. The ensemble also actively unearths rarely performed repertoire for men’s voices such as the music written by Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janáček heard on the ensemble’s 2013 album Song of a Czech.
Cantus has a rich history of collaborations with other performing arts organizations, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Guthrie Theater, Theater Latté Da and the James Sewell Ballet. The ensemble is heard frequently on public radio as regular guests on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor, on Performance Today and on the annual Thanksgiving program “Thanksgiving with Cantus,” heard each year on more than 300 public radio stations nationwide. In the fall of 2014, Cantus released A Harvest Home – the 17th recording on the group’s self-titled label – of repertoire from the “Thanksgiving with Cantus” program.
Cantus is the recipient of numerous awards, including Chorus America’s highest honor, the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence (2009), as well as Chorus America’s Education Outreach Award (2011). Cantus was also the 2010-2011 Artist in Residence on Minnesota Public Radio and 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 eighth year, the award-winning High School Residency program brings Cantus into Minnesota schools several times a year for mentoring with a culminating public concert in the spring.