Just this morning, Cantus was at Crookston High School, singing with the 9-12 grade non-audition concert choir.
Crookston is the final stop on Cantus' tour of Minnesota as Artists-in-Residence at Classical MPR. Experienced educators (Cantus runs their own residency with local High Schools,) Cantus has made time in each town in which they have performed over the last two months to work with local junior high school, high school, and college choirs.
In Ely, students bussed in from all over the region to participate, joining forces into one area choir that stood on the risers facing the men of Cantus. After listening to the choir sing, Cantus retreated to a huddle in a corner of the stage, spent a minute in intense private conversation, broke the huddle, returned to their chairs, and then one-by-one took center stage in front of the students to work on a particular aspect of the performance.
Cantus worked on helping the students relax their faces, extend their vowels, work out the most important words for emphasis, and stretch their dynamics. As each of the men of Cantus took their turn in front of the students they were funny, engaging, and encouraging, and after 45 minutes everyone watching was gasping and whispering at the difference in the choir's sound.
The students also felt the difference. Taylor Davis, a member of the Ely High School choir, said that he attended only because his teacher had told him to come.
"When I first heard about it I thought it was going to be kind of lame," said Davis, "but now that I actually saw it I thought it was really cool. Like, it really had an effect on me."
Davis, a male singer in a High School choir, also expressed a sentiment that was echoed by several of the choir directors involved, saying that in his choir "there's not that many guys, and, like, being able to hear a lot more guys kind of makes me feel that there's actually other guys that like to sing."
Aware of the heavy attrition of 13 and 14 year-old boys in the not-so-cool art of singing, Scott Shrimpton, the choir director for the Grand Rapids High School choir, had arranged to bus in the boys from the Junior High School choir to watch the master class with the High School choir in Grand Rapids. Shrimpton wanted to expand the younger students' image of what singing can be, and expressed the hope that the opportunity to see Cantus, a 9-member professional male vocal ensemble, would inspire them to continue their singing with the High School choir when they arrived.
Cantus is performing their final Artist-in-Residence concert from the road in Crookston tonight at the Kiehle Auditorium at the University of Minnesota - Crookston (call 218-281-8266 for tickets). All of the students who sang with Cantus this morning have been invited to attend the concert free of charge, thanks to the Legacy Amendment for Arts and Cultural Heritage, giving them the chance to see the men in action, and hopefully inspire them to keep on singing.