Against the Dying of the Light: the Second Cantus CD Erick Lichte and Michael Hanawalt
According to Erick Lichte, ...Against the Dying of the Light was not merely the most ambitious project Cantus had ever attempted, it was also the most difficult to accomplish. The recording was definitely born in pain. For one thing, noise from the Chapel of the Good Shepherd's heating system was incompatible with the recording process, so the group turned off the forced-air system during the sessions. But Good Shepherd is a stone building, and this was late winter in Minnesota. The interior temperature dropped alarmingly quickly, and Cantus frequently decided to gut out severe cold rather than delay recording.
Most of the time, members of the chorus could see their breath. Typical session garb included scarves, gloves, and hats (and long johns)—and this is physically difficult material to perform even under ideal conditions.
Then there was post-production. "Because this was a progression, we spent a lot of time editing and arranging the transition from one piece to another," said Lichte. "And we really got into it in microscopic detail. I got really nit-picky about it, but I felt it was so important that there be no technical distractions from the message and the experience of undertaking this emotional journey.
"John Atkinson did a brilliant job of helping us realize that goal—he showed an extraordinary level of understanding and artistry in the way he employed his skills and knowledge. His commitment and dedication to this project equaled our own."
Michael Hanawalt agreed. "Every time we work with John, he just astonishes us with his professionalism. No, that's not right—you expect that, of course. He amazes us with the depth of his musical knowledge and his empathy with our artistic goals. He brings a level of integrity to the project that makes it possible for us to produce a document that fully expresses who we are and what we want to say."
Lichte was adamant. "If ...Against the Dying of the Light succeeds at what we attempted to do with it, it's because John cared enough about what we wanted to do that he spent far too much of his time and talents to make it so. Perhaps there are a lot of engineers who can do what he does, but he's a real musician and he knows how to communicate with musicians—and he cares about the musical integrity of everything he does."
The result is impressive. Cantus and Atkinson have achieved marvelous sound that is both intimate and evocative, on a disc whose beauty matches its ambition. In the final analysis, one of the strongest arguments for life must be that it can hold such pleasures.—Wes Phillips