Deep River: the Cantus Spirituals Project Who are Cantus?

Sidebar 3: Who are Cantus?

Cantus was founded in fall 1995 when four students—Brian Arreola, Albert Jordan, Erick Lichte, and Kjell Stenberg—came together in their sophomore year on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, a place renowned for its virtual wellspring of activity in choral music. Their objective was to spend time away from the rigors of college life doing something they enjoyed: singing. During the next two years the ensemble grew to 12 members and began performing at venues on campus.

Three of the four guys were cellists who reveled in playing chamber ensembles—string quartets, cello sonatas, etc. As most string players will tell you, chamber groups don't have a leader. There is no conductor, no musical director, no presupposed hierarchy. Most professional string players find chamber music to be a profound experience in which they can have their own voice, enjoy a fruitful dialogue with other musicians, and truly experience the joy of collaboration and cooperation. Very few choral singers ever experience this freedom.

Cantus creates its music as a fully collaborative chamber ensemble. When you look at their roster, you will not find a musical director or conductor listed. This is a very important aspect of what Cantus is—the group's structure allows for some individual leadership to come from within the group, and lets the discovery process of making musical choices occur with the whole group's input.

In September 2000, Cantus established itself as a nonprofit arts organization based in Minnesota. In addition to its work as a performing ensemble, it is active as a proponent of music education, encouraging people of all ages, especially young men, to sing. Its members are frequent clinicians at festivals, elementary and middle schools, and at high schools, colleges, and universities across the country.

Cantus has performed more than 300 concerts in the US during the past seven years, including appearances at AmericaFest, the American Choral Directors' Association's (ACDA) National Convention, the Newport Music Festival, the ACDA Central Division Convention, and many choral festivals and regional ACDA gatherings. In summer 2003, Cantus represented the US at the international Pollyfolia festival in Normandy, France and are currently Artist-in-Residence at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN. Cantus's concert schedule can be found at their website.

In addition to Deep River, five other Cantus CDs are available on the Cantus Recordings label: Introit (1997), Tidings (1998), Vagabond (1998), Let Your Voice Be Heard (2001), and ...Against the Dying of the Light (2002), the last two also engineered, edited, and mastered by John Atkinson.