A Concert Review
Cantus and Chanticleer in Concert
October 3, 2016
For her birthday, I ordered tickets for my wife Sue and me to see these two premiere vocal groups, teaming up for the first time. We have seen several wonderful concerts over the years; few of them top this one.
The eight men of Cantus call Minneapolis their home. They have developed quite a following, especially here in Minnesota where there is a deep vocal tradition, including the well-known Lutheran college choirs like St. Olaf (Northfield), Concordia (Moorhead) and Gustavus Adolphus (St. Peter). A group of men from St. Olaf found themselves hungry to continue with choral music for men, giving birth to Cantus.
An even dozen men make up Chanticleer, based in San Francisco, California. The group itself has been around longer than Cantus, starting in 1979.
Earlier this year, the two groups happened to find themselves in the same area while on tour. They got together informally over a drink or two. Of course, then next thing you know they are singing right there in the bar, enjoying their common music and wowing the patrons in the bar. A video from that night has gone viral on YOUTUBE, providing the groups with the impetus to join forces in a concert, as seen here . . .
We drove the two hours to Minneapolis, took care of some business, dined at the BRITS PUB, and took our seats in row 19 of Orchestra Hall, and oh, what we heard and felt as we were part of a sold out performance there. We knew something excellent was afoot when the audience erupted with applause as each group entered to do their pieces even before a single note came out of their mouths. This was especially true for Cantus as they entered – the audience gave them a clear home town welcome upon their entrance.
The concert began with a few pieces by Chanticleer, all from the sixteenth century, followed by Cantus with three of their own, all of which come from their upcoming concert regarding Veterans’ Day – a very compelling text (the poem “Five Ways to Kill a Man” by Edwin Brock) was put to music by Bob Chilcott, giving me one of the best pieces of the night. More from Chanticleer – two pieces done in Russian, and then Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise”, done without words. Cantus returned to the stage with a Polish piece, a setting of In Flanders Field and then a piece by Minnesota composer Libby Larson. To end the first portion of the concert, the groups combined to sing the same Ave Maria (by Franz Beibl) that got them together on that Youtube video a handful of months ago.
Following intermission, the groups populated the stage together, joining voices for a piece by Giovanni Gabrielli and then a piece based on Bach’s “Jesu Meine Freude”. Next came the two groups bringing the audience to an emotional high with Steven Paulus’ “Pilgrims’ Hymn”. I teared up, I’m sure Sue did, too. No doubt, we were not alone. The piece was performed with such clarity and blend – such strong vocal power – that there was no other option but to be tugged down the emotional road of the thrill of the music. They concluded this portion with Deep River.
Cantus brought their spiritual chops with them and sang “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight”, only to be answered by Chanticleer’s version of “Shenandoah”. To wrap up the concert, the groups rejoined with the song “Ride the Chariot”. A standing ovation brought the singers back onto the stage, who listened to strong, long applause and shouts of pleasure and encouragement to do another.
Not to disappoint, two more spirituals served as encores: “We Shall Walk Through the Valley of Peace” and “Good News, the Chariot’s Coming” brought the crowd to their feet once again.
The concert was more than a concert. It was a collaboration of two groups so well matched and blended in their voice. It was cooperation in programming. It was an effort that, as far as I know, may never be matched. We can only hope that the two groups will again put together another strong concert to give the world another great musical moment.
The concert itself is available for a short while through the MPR Facebook page. You can find it here at:
You can read more about Chanticleer and Cantus through a link to MPR and their choral streaming service here: