Sunday, March 30, 2003

Miami glee club shares stage with a cappella Cantus

By Melissa Knific
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] In eight years, Cantus has grown in numbers, recorded five CDs and started its own record label.
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It all started in 1995 when a few friends from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., got together and began singing on weekends for fun.

Soon after, Erick Lichte named the group "Cantus," and he, along with his buddies, decided to test their music in front of the school.

"I didn't expect it would be anything more than one or two concerts," Lichte says.

But eight years later, Cantus has up to a dozen members, five CDs on its own record label, and an 80-concert tour booked for 2003.

On Wednesday, Cantus will perform with the Miami University Men's Glee Club in Hall part of the university's Performing Arts Series.

The male choral ensemble, ranging from age 23 to 27, performs everything from Gregorian chants to modern pop songs - and it does it all a cappella.

What: Cantus with the Miami University Men's Glee Club
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Where: Hall Auditorium, Miami University Oxford campus
How much: $10, $8 seniors and $5 youth at Miami's Shriver Center box office or call (513) 529-3200.
"There's something about the purity of hearing just plain sound," Lichte says. "The human voice is probably the most versatile and fundamental instrument."

While Cantus will be the focus of Wednesday's concert, Miami's glee club also will have the chance to strut its stuff. Two songs, "Ave Maria" (Franz Biebl) and "Soon Ah Will Be Done" (William Dawson), will be sung together. Two pieces will be performed solely by the glee club.

During "Ave Maria," the two groups will sing back and forth, with the glee club on stage and Cantus on the balcony.

"They're one of the best ensembles in the country," says Ethan Sperry, director of Miami's glee club. "To have the chance to work with them is an irreplaceable experience."

Other songs performed by Cantus include "Deep River" (arranger Harry T. Burleigh), "Who's Lovin' You" (Smoky Robinson; arranger Timothy Takach) and "Shenandoah" (arranger James Erb).

Sperry noted that Cantus is unique because the men's voices often sound like one instrument.

"They have an incredible blend when you listen to them," he says. "You cannot pick out the individual voices."

When asked if Cantus ever will become a popular music phenomenon, Lichte responds jokingly.

"Like Justin Timberlake? We just don't dance as well."

On a more serious note, he says that he hopes people will eventually broaden their listening horizons. By combining different genres as well as a number of languages, Cantus' performances allow for a new world of music, Lichte believes.

"We don't try to put (the different genres) into concerts for eclecticism sake," Lichte says, noting how in each performance, the group uses its song selection to tell a story. "We try to have a whole program that becomes more than just the sum its parts."

Cantus hopes to release its sixth album, a compilation of African-American spirituals, in May.


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