Cantus Biography: Chris Foss

December 16, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — Join us as we get to know Classical MPR's 2010-11 Artists-in-Residence Cantus through a series of short bios. Here, we learn about Chris Foss.

Bass Chris Foss is currently in his third season with Cantus. Originally from Council Bluffs, Iowa, Chris's education background includes a BM in Commercial Music from Millikin University as well as an MM in Choral Conducting from the University of Nebraska. Here, he shares his thoughts on how lucky he is to have a career in music, his kazoo expertise and his secret handshake with Tim Takach.

What is the best part of singing with Cantus?

Getting to sing with a bunch of people who are totally committed to the art form is a real treat. Cantus members aren't dividing their attention between their office job, waiting tables, selling pants, and the like... everyone is totally focused on making a great artistic product with their entire lives.

In your mind, what makes Cantus so special and/or unique?

I think the fact their we don't employ a conductor or artistic administrator lends itself to a very collegial natured company. It's a very comfortable environment.

What is your best and/or funniest memory from a Cantus tour?

We did a concert in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the owner of a local beer brewery was in attendance that night. He took us on a tour of his fine establishment after the concert. Happy times.

When did you know that you wanted to make singing your career?

I always knew that making music was something I was interested in pursuing, but I don't think any sane person can say with 100% confidence that they'll make all their money by performing for their whole life. It was always a pipe dream, but I never realistically considered it until I signed my contract with Cantus a couple years ago. Just lucky, I guess.

Do you have any rituals or things you do before you go out to perform?

Tim and I have a complicated handshake ritual - it goes something like this: Hi five, Low five, behind the back, fifteen jumping jacks, two cartwheels, I do a back flip while Tim does the worm, and we finish with a double-blind triple axel, all the while reciting the list of our favorite post-tonal composers in reverse alphabetical order. We've been trying to change it up lately, but it's hard to get away from the comfort of a routine.

Cantus is known for its collaborations with other performing arts groups; what has been a favorite of yours?

The National Lutheran Choir concert was one of my favorites... we don't often get to sing with women much anymore.

Do you play any instruments? Are there any that you'd like to learn to play?

I studied kazoo for four years in undergrad, and it was my secondary performance area in grad school.

Who is your music "hero" and why?

Bobby McFerrin is my musical hero. Anyone who has had such a long and varied career of doing completely different things successfully every time is worthy of admiration.

What hobbies or pastimes do you enjoy doing when you are not singing (or sleeping)?

I brew the occasional beer, and try to stay out of trouble, mostly. These two are fairly contradictory, so it takes up a lot of time.

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