In August 2020, Signum Classics began releasing Cantus’ COVID-19 Sessions. Recorded on March 17, 19, and 20 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the COVID-19 Sessions came together quickly as society began to shut down amidst the growing outbreak in the United States.
First released on YouTube and Facebook in the spring of 2020, the tracks racked up millions of views, leading to a series of digital singles . Available together now for the first time, the pieces span a great breadth of emotion, from joy to sorrow to wonder to pain. The choir add: "We hope you will find the performances themselves informed by the emotional states in which they were recorded – heightened at different times in different ways."
Now in its 27th season, the “engaging” (New Yorker) low-voice ensemble Cantus is widely known for its trademark warmth and blend, innovative programming and riveting 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. The Philadelphia Inquirer called the group nothing short of “exquisite.”
As one of the nation’s few full-time vocal ensembles, Cantus has come to 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.
Cantus enjoys a vigorous schedule of national and international touring, in addition to home concerts in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Cantus has performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, UCLA, San Francisco Performances, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall and Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.
In the 2020-21 season, Cantus stayed true to its artistic vision and commitment to innovation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, producing seven all-new online programs that reached audiences spanning 50 states and seven countries, and garnering praise for how “the sheer quality of singing somehow melted the barriers of online communication” (Star Tribune). The ensemble adapted its award-winning education programs to the pandemic, working virtually with high schools and universities both locally and nationally. In addition to the COVID-19 Sessions, Cantus released Manifesto on the Signum Classics label in summer 2021. The album includes world premiere recordings of works by Ysaÿe M. Barnwell, David Lang, Sydney Guillaume, Libby Larsen, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and others.
Committed to the expansion of the vocal music repertoire, Cantus actively commissions new music and seeks to unearth rarely performed repertoire for low voices. Cantus has received commissioning grants from New Music USA, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chorus America, American Composers Forum and Chamber Music America. In line with Cantus’ ongoing commitment to fostering new works and expanding the repertoire for tenors, baritones, and basses, the ensemble has partnered with composer and former Cantus bass Timothy C. Takach and Graphite Publishing on the Cantus Choral Series, distributing Cantus’ signature arrangements and compositions for ensembles everywhere to perform and enjoy.
Cantus has a rich history of collaborations with other performing arts organizations, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Pops, Chanticleer, Sweet Honey in the Rock®, Lorelei Ensemble, Theater Latté Da and the James Sewell Ballet. The ensemble is heard frequently on both classical public radio nationwide and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Cantus has released 20 recordings with Signum Classics as well as on the group’s self-titled label.