My Christmas with Cantus

This is the weird and wonderful story of how my one and only Christmas with Cantus led me to meet tenors David Walton and Aaron Humble who are joining forces with me for my upcoming “A Three Tenors Christmas” at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.  

plug:

  • Tuesday, December 22 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets
  • Wednesday, December 23 at 8:15 P.M. (dinner seating at 6:15) get tickets

Fyi, as of this writing, availability has gone from “excellent” to “good”….so don’t wait too long to get a ticket!

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The three tenors rehearse with pianist Herb Johnson.

My life is strange.  I’ve known for some time that anybody who willfully puts himself or herself up on a stage in front of other people is unusual.  Being a man that sings really high in front of people makes me a freak of nature.   I shouldn’t be surprised then, that this story is also strange.  Some call it luck but looking back all I can think is that Someone was orchestrating.

When I was in my last semester of grad school, I met Aaron Humble of Cantus as he was getting a tour of Denver University’s Lamont School of Music before the ensemble’s performance that evening.  I’d heard of Cantus on Minnesota Public Radio but had never been to any of their productions.  I decided I needed to look into this group, and I applied to audition that spring.  They hold annual auditions to attract the top male vocal talent in the nation, regardless of any open positions in the ensemble.  They invited me to come to one of their live auditions. That alone was worth the plane ticket.

Instead of singing for a director, or a panel of judges, you sing for the men of Cantus.  After all of the auditionees had sung their songs, we were invited back into the room and then magic happened. We got to sing WITH Cantus.  As I’d prepared my parts for the music ahead of time I had imagined the sound we’d achieve.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  I flew back to Denver with an even deeper respect for the organization.  I was saddened to hear some time later that there were no open positions in the ensemble, but still very glad to have sung with them, even for a day.

While singing a role in Italy at the tail end of the summer I received a call from Doc Rainbow, director of theatre at my undergraduate alma mater, University of Northwestern – St. Paul, inviting me to come sing the lead role of Father in Children of Eden that fall.  We sold or gave away nearly everything we owned and returned to our native Minnesota, anticipating a one month stay and then a circuit of audition trips out west.  Then, just a few days after arriving in Minnesota, I got a call from Cantus.  One of their tenors had taken a leave of absence and they needed a tenor to replace him for their upcoming “Christmas with Cantus” concerts and was I in town and AVAILABLE!?  I was ecstatic.

Rehearsing with them for six hours a day and learning an entire show in two weeks was a rigorous and rewarding experience.  Getting to perform with them was So. Much. Fun.  My contract included singing on their Christmas with Cantus CD in 2011.  That recording is still a favorite in my household, frequently being chosen by our young daughters as their bedtime music.

In the spring of 2012, Cantus was looking to fill this tenor position with a full-time singer, and I was hopeful that I may be able to join this group for the long term. Though I was bummed that they chose someone else, I totally understood their reasoning. David Walton possesses  a tenor range that I only dream of.  On my first encounter with David, I remembered thinking – just from his speaking voice – “wow, this guy is going to go far.”  Which he has. Find out more about him here.

I’ve been so privileged to have performed with David since then in various productions and was thrilled that he joined me and Aleks Knezevich for the debut performance of our tenor trio last year for Christmas at Wooddale in Eden Prairie Minnesota.

As plans for this year’s Chanhassen concerts developed, we needed to find a new tenor, as Aleks was not available this year.  David suggested Aaron Humble, also a long-time Cantus member who is currently on faculty at Augustana College in Illinois.  He is not only a quick study but brings such confidence and experience with him.  You can find out more about him here.

While I never purposed to create this year’s tenor trio with former members of Cantus, it makes perfect sense that that’s what has happened.  Cantus attracts top male talent to the state and the entire community benefits from it.

I’m thankful for the boldness to take chances.  This Christmas I’m especially thankful for the men of Cantus 2010 who took a chance on me.  I will always be grateful for the institution of Cantus.  It continues to create amazing music with many new voices and creating opportunities that go far beyond the ears that hear them.

(By the way, the 2015 “Christmas with Cantus” series starts tonight!)

Three Tenors (medQ)

photo credit: Bethany Jackson of Twin Cities Headshots

Summer Starts

We’ve been a bit silent here on the blog for a while.  As the season changes, and our schedules along with it, here is an update about what to expect in the near future from Nathan and the Birds.

Summer Lessons

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After Nathan’s second spring student recital this coming Tuesday, he will have officially wrapped up another year of voice lessons through Waconia High School, Prior Lake High School, and his own private studios at home and at Colonial Church of Edina.

Beginning this week he will be primarily teaching at our home studio in Northeast Minneapolis, while maintaining the Edina and Prior Lake studios as well.  This allows for a much broader and more flexible schedule.  Click on this link or open this pdf (Call for voice students Summer 2014 (general memo)for information about purchasing summer lessons.  We are using sort of a punch-card system this year.  Check it out. Pass it on. Sign up!

Weddings

Nathan and I are looking forward to performing together in two weddings late in June.  Wedding gigs have always been one of our favorite things – in fact it was doing this sort of thing together that kept us so connected when we first became friends 12 years ago (yikes!).

Know of anyone looking for voice or piano music for a late summer or fall wedding?  We’re game!

Concerts

Details aren’t being made public quite yet, but based on the success of last year’s A Summer Night Romance concerts, it’s fair to say that there are plans brewing.  Nathan has been working with a growing team of professionals to help develop his processes as a concert producer. Expect great things to be happening as the year unfolds.

On Sunday, June 8, there will be a fun jazz concert with the Apollo Male Chorus and the George Maurer Group. Nathan has been working as one of their section leaders and will be singing with them on this event. See link above for tickets, and let us know if you’ll be there!

As always, check out the events page for info about upcoming productions involving Nathan.

Newsletter

Our monthly newsletters have been on hiatus as well, but we are reviving them soon, like within a couple days soon. If you’re not sure if you’re on the list, sign up here. If you don’t get around to doing that until after we’ve sent it out, you’ll be able to find it on the archive page, and I’ll be sure to get you on the list for the next one.  This next May/June edition will share more about how we have each been engaged professionally in the recent past, as well as more about summer plans.

Baby!

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The girls (and Nathan) are pretty excited about bringing another boy into the family.

And if that newsletter doesn’t end up getting to you in the next few days like I ‘promised,’ it’s probably because we decided to take a vacation at the hospital.  Our baby boy is due to arrive around June 9 (which also happens to be our wedding anniversary), but this mama would be really ok with any time now.

Thanks for following and supporting us on this journey – both professionally and personally!

Hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather.

~Naomi, for both of us

Check out:
Facebook Page
Recordings

 

Remember Those Summer Nights? A Glimpse from Above the World

Where did the time go?! Considering that our last post here was just prior to the final A Summer Night Romance concert, there is a bit to fill in!

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A Summer Night Romance

This concert series was so much fun! Each venue was unique and beautiful and served as a great backdrop for the nostalgic jazz concerts. The trio of instrumentalists (two trios, in fact, for the different days) were stellar!

Here is Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

Timotha Lanae owning the stage of the Club Theatre at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

And Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie:

Eryn Tvete lighting up the porch of the Smith Douglas More House (Dunn Bros) in Eden Prairie

And Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing “Cheek to Cheek” on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library:

Nathan Bird and Christy Jones singing "Cheek to Cheek" on the Terrace of the Stillwater Public Library

To see lots more pictures from each of the concerts check out the albums in our Facebook page and click on the “photos” link. And if you haven’t, be sure to “like” the page while you’re there so that you can get the little updates and blurbs that we send out through that channel.

Newsletter

Speaking of updates, we now have four monthly newsletters that we have sent via email. They include summaries of recent happenings, Nathan’s upcoming performance schedule, and a performance calendar for friends of ours.  To sign up to receive it in your inbox, fill out the form here. To view archive copies, go here.  (If you thought you signed up, but haven’t received anything, check your junk mail or promotional folder, as it may have been filtered out; then be sure to select for our emails to go to your main inbox.)

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We are less than a month away from our next big concert production!

Above the World So High
a virtual journey around the world via the lullaby and other children and family songs
Sunday, November 10, 6:00 pm
Redeemer Covenant Church
7801 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park, MN

This will be a fun family friendly event. You can find more info here at our Kickstarter campaign.

That’s right, we are full swing into raising funds for this concert via the Kickstarter platform, a great means for group sourcing creative projects. Even a small amount helps toward reaching our goal of $1800.  No one gets charged unless we do in fact get that minimum amount.  Any funds beyond that amount will go toward us and our team of talented writers and performers. 

Seven days to go! We can do it! Some pledge amounts will reward you with tickets, some with a song recorded just for you.  There is also the option of donating $30 toward helping a family to attend who wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets.

As a backer for the project, you will receive email updates about the creative process along the way, sort of an inside look at how this all comes together. Please consider partnering with us! And spread the word!

Have a blessed week!

Nathan and Naomi Bird

Right around the corner: Discounts, Deals, Dancing, and Dean Martin

It’s here. Almost!

The final of our three A Summer Night Romance jazz concerts is TOMORROW, Friday, August 16 at 8:00. Stillwater Public Library.  On the terrace. Outside. Live music. Candles. Dancing.

We’ve mentioned previously how this particular location is kind of sentimental for us because the first place we called “home” when we got married was the upstairs of a little house on Hickory Street, just 0.7 miles away from the library.  I used to walk to the terrace to write wedding thank you cards.  All this to say….we think it’s quite fitting to have a Romance-themed concert at this venue.

sale tag clip artIn honor of this thought, we’ve got a special deal going just for the next 24 hours (23 now – eek!).  Until 2:00 pm on Friday, you can get two Section A tickets for $40!  Or one for $20 if you don’t have a date – which is totally OK too.  Either use this link, or enter the promo code “HickoryStreet” at checkout to get the discount.

You still have the option of getting a Section B seat with no cost up-front (contributions will be accepted during and after the event), but the best seats in the house, or rather, on the library, will be reserved for Section A-ers.

Either way, please, please, please, check out the special discounts that are available around Stillwater tomorrow for our ticketholders. I’ll paste the list at the end of this post as well.  Thanks so much to the Stillwater shops who have offered the cool deals for you, and another special thanks to the shops who have helped sponsor this event.

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Nathan Bird and Christy Jones – what’s not to love?

Keep in mind that we really would love to bring A Summer Night Romance back next year.  We have had so much fun with the shows in Chanhassen and Eden Prairie so far, and I’m pretty sure there are a few folks out there who would welcome our return.  Together we can make tomorrow’s show the best one yet and finish this run on a high note!  (Actually there will be lots of high notes in this concert, and some low ones, and quite a few in between.)

Four of our performers have CDs that will be available for purchase at the event. Be sure to stop by the table to say Hi, sign up for the newsletter mailing list, and get a piece of candy!  Remember that we have a Facebook page for updates too.

Can’t wait for the show! Hope to see you or your friends there tomorrow!

Cheers!
Naomi, for Nathan and the rest of the Summer Night Romance gang
see below for discount list

photo credit: Andrew Kurcan

SNR flyer for Stillwater

Discounts for Ticketholders of A Summer Night Romance in Stillwater

*You must present your paper or digital Eventbrite ticket to receive the discount.
*Unless otherwise noted, all discounts are only valid on 8/16/13.
*Hours listed are specific to 8/16/13.

Saint Croix Vineyards Winery – BOGO wine-tasting cards *Good through 12/31/13* (6428 Manning Avenue; open 10am-6pm)

Domacin Restaurant and Wine Bar – 10% off entire order (102 2nd Street, Stillwater; open 4pm-11pm)

Lake Elmo Inn – 25% off an entrée (3442 Lake Elmo Ave N, Lake Elmo; open 11am-2pm and 5pm-10pm)

Joseph’s Family Restaurant  – 10% off entrée, not including specials or features (14608 N. 60th St.; open 6:30-10pm)

Quickfire Pizza, Made-to-order individual woodfire pizza – 10% off orders of $20 or more (116 South Main St; 11:30am-2:30am)

Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop  – 10% off entire order (131 Main Street South; open 11am-9pm)

Cherry Berry, Self-serve frozen yogurt – 20% off  (125 South Main St; open until 11pm)

Candyland old tyme candy store 15% off in-store purchase (212 Main Street North; open 10am-10pm)

Stillwater Olive Oil Company  – $1 off of a bottle (208 Main Street South; open 11am-7pm)

Valley Bookseller – 20% off book purchase (217 Main Street North; open 9am-8pm)

Papa Wheelies Surrey – $5 off a surrey rental (204 North Main Street; open 11am-dusk)

The Summer Night Romances

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-Notes from our 2013 Production-

What a weekend!
We launched A Summer Night Romance – a jazz concert full of classic crooner tunes and heart-warming melodies from the 20s-50s.

It took many hard working people to make it all happen. Thank you so much!  We’ve got a bit of work yet to do for our final performance, but after the overwhelmingly positive responses to the first two, we are encouraged and inspired to successfully complete this bold production.

Friday was in the Club Theatre of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Great crowd. Splendid treats. Fabulous instrumentalists. It was a really fun jazz club style performance. (Thanks to technical issues, those pictures are forthcoming.)

Sunday was magical. untitled-44-13

Who doesn’t dream of the perfect outdoor concert?

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And who in the western Minneapolis suburbs doesn’t love the Eden Prairie Dunn Bros at the Smith Douglas More House?

Bet you’ve never seen the patio looking like this, though, have you?

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Perfect weather + live music + homemade desserts + coffee + wine + candles =

photo credit: Andrew Kurcan

Did I mention live music…untitled-80-20

We were so happy to have some Eden Prairie city councilmembers present who were instrumental in saving the historic Smith Douglas More House.  They confirmed that this music would indeed have been celebrated by the home’s former owners. How special it is to perform such timeless and nostalgic music in an historically appropriate venue.

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Each venue for these events is so beautifully unique. Each performer is so beautifully talented. But don’t just take our word for it…

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Introducing the Cast of “A Summer Night Romance”

Clip art musiciansJust over two weeks to the first show! We’re pretty excited. Not only do we have a great lineup of music and gorgeous venues, but there are some downright grand people on the program.  This post introduces you to some of them.  Nathan will share how he got to know them and [some of] the reasons why he is happy to share the stage with them again. I haven’t even met some of them yet!  If Nathan’s intro here reaches you as it did me, then I look forward to seeing you when you come out to see these folks in concert.

It’s no secret that a huge part of what drives Nathan’s musical passions is the whole experience of collaborating – interacting, sharing, creating, and growing through developing a program and performing music with others. These Summer Night Romance concerts started with an idea of just me accompanying Nathan, but boy aren’t you glad that has changed! Believe you me, these people offer a much more entertaining package for this particular concept than I do. Their cumulative experience and energy belong only to seasoned performers who are bound to deliver a fabulous event. Three fabulous events, that is.

Allow us to introduce…

Andrew Cooke from chanhassentheatres cot comAndrew Cooke (8/2), keyboard

“I met Andrew during H.M.S. Pinafore at the Guthrie  and appreciated how he is such a nice guy – so humble, approachable, and very talented as a composer/arranger/music director.  I’m so grateful that he took time out from a night in his role as music director at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres to do this concert with me!”

daniel grecoDaniel Greco (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Daniel when we were both singing in Hamlet with the Minnesota Opera chorus.  We hit it off pretty easily.  I love his infectious passion for performance and teaching. It’ll be exciting to watch his career, especially with his upcoming move to New York for grad school. Thanks for fitting these concerts in amidst the busyness of packing!  You will be missed!”

Christy Jones from cjosings dot comChristy (Anderson) Jones (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I’ve known Christy longer than anyone else on the program. As undergrads we  performed a ton together in choir, musicals, and opera workshops; and have grown to be close friends over the years. I really value her flexibility and diversity of interests – lyricist, performer, administrator – she brings a lot to the table every time we collaborate.”

Eryn Tvete from reverbnation dot com slash eryntveteEryn Tvete (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Eryn through the Minnesota Opera chorus also, and got to know her more through her work with Opera on Tap, for which I really appreciate her administrative organization. When I saw her as a performer and emcee I was floored by her stage presence and knew she would be a great part of these shows.”

Timotha-Lanae-from minneapolis dot media institute blog dot comTimotha Lanae  (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“I met Timotha during Pinafore as well. We had a blast playing Bananagrams together during almost every intermission, and then some. I really appreciate what she brings to the stage. Besides her amazing talent as an actress/singer/dancer, she also is an incredibly kind and authentic individual.”

Colyn Tvete (8/2, 8/4, 8/16), voice

“Colyn was one of my favorite people to talk to during rehearsals at Minnesota Opera chorus. When I was new at it, he helped show me the ropes and welcome me into the MNOp chorus family.  He’s a very jovial-spirited and talented tenor, as you will see.”

NatCrom-7-1024x682Natalie Cromwell (8/2, 8/16), voice

“I met Natalie when she was in the hospital after an operation. Her sister, who studied music with me during our undergrad,  invited my men’s vocal ensemble to sing for her. Yes, friendships start in interesting ways.  It’s exciting to watch her career take off as she has aggressively pursued her recording and occupational goals in Christian music.  She is honest and ambitious and generous – all of which make for a great collaborator.”

Stephanie Cousins from stephaniecousins dot comStephanie Cousins (8/4), voice

“I met Stephanie at an admissions dinner at our alma mater when she was still in high school. I was singing for the event, and we sat at the same table. Later we shared the stage in Fiddler on the Roof, my first theater gig after getting my degree.  I have a lot of respect for her. She is multitalented and dynamic on the stage.”

Shahzore Shah from cantussings dot orgShahzore Shah (8/2, 8/16), voice

“Shahzore is one of my favorite voices in Cantus. For the short time that I sang with them a couple years ago, I was intrigued by Shahzore’s balance of professionalism and personableness. And we share interests other than music, namely cooking and gardening. I’m pretty stoked about the specific songs he is singing for the events.”

There are a few others on the program (if you were doing the ‘math’ – no the show does not consist of only keyboard and voices), all of whom will be playing with Nathan for the first time and come highly recommended. There will be Andrew Foreman the bass player, Paul Hill the drummer, and Dan Musselman the pianist.

Like a said – a pretty nifty lineup, huh?

For more information about tickets to the events, you can click through on the dates above, or go here.

See you at the show!