Photo by Curtis Johnson
Is there anything more quote-unquote Minnesotan than Cantus? Is there anything more culturally, stereotypically “us” than nine adult men in plaid button-downs paired with casual suit jackets with the sleeves pushed up singing a harmonic arrangement of “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.?
No. No, there really isn’t. They don’t even have a conductor. These nine men conduct themselves. Hello: “Minnesotan.”
For those who don’t grow up worshipping the choral tradition of our fine state or obsessing over Glee, Cantus is one of only two full-time men’s vocal ensembles in the country. (The other is Chanticleer, out of San Francisco.) The group’s repertoire is expansive, with sacred music and partnerships with contemporary classical composers particularly well done.
It was the Covers: A Pop Concert (which we caught Friday night at the Cowles Center) that felt most “Minnesotan.” At moments it was like attending a magical picnic of St. Olaf grads—imagine a bunch of dads flipping burgers, then suddenly breaking into “Delta Dawn”—and nailing it. (Note: we openly wept. Seriously. We haven’t heard that song since Hee Haw was on.)
Other moments were sonorously excellent: The rendition of Zepp’s “Kashmir,” with tenor Shahzore Shah’s Persian vocal riffs over it (amplifying the essence of the violin orchestration in the original), made a whole new anthem from the old one. And the take on Tears for Fears's “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was delightfully flawless, especially led by tenor Aaron Humble, who, from the balcony, could have passed for any number of Brit pop rockers.
This pops concert was particularly bittersweet, as it marked the end of baritone Adam Reinwald’s 17-year run with Cantus. The St. Olaf grad (seriously) is expecting a baby this summer with his wife. Tenor Gary Ruschman, who has 10 years in, is leaving too, as is tenor David Walton, in his third season. Sad. They're all terrific.
You can still catch them all together this Friday and Saturday night for the final pop shows. And you can catch them all on Father’s Day at the Lake Harriet Bandshell, 2 p.m. It’s a Father’s Day tradition and it’s free, which is also totally “Minnesotan.”
Shouting, “Do Stairway to Heaven!” while drunkenly waving your lighter around is not so much. So maybe don’t do that, okay? Though the guys of Cantus would probably think it’s adorable. After all, they did name their makeshift horn section “The Cantoots.”