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 28th 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 2020-2021 season, Cantus stayed true to its artistic vision and commitment to innovation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the release of The COVID-19 Sessions and a second brand new album, Manifesto, with Signum Classics, Cantus produced seven critically acclaimed virtual performances with audience goers from around the world and all 50 states, garnering praise for how “the sheer quality of singing somehow melted the barriers of online communication” (Star Tribune). Additionally, the ensemble maintained its educational offerings, working virtually with high schools and universities both locally and nationally.
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. Additionally, Cantus has a rich history of collaborations with other performing arts organizations, including the Minnesota 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 stations nationwide and on SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Cantus is the recipient of three prestigious Chorus America awards, including the 2016 Dale Warland Singers Commission Award (Presented in partnership with the American Composers Forum), the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the Education Outreach Award. Cantus was also Artist in Residence on Minnesota Public Radio and on American Public Media’s Performance Today.
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.
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 masterclass and workshop settings across the country and has visited 31 Minnesota high schools throughout the 13-year history of its award-winning High School Residency program. Cantus also presents a Young and Emerging Composers’ Competition, to encourage the creation of new repertoire through cash prizes, a performance, recording and publication of winning compositions.