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

Father’s Day Weekend Festivities

Hey all,

photo credit: etsy.com

photo credit: etsy.com

Here’s a quick update on some fun goings-on with Nathan and the extended Twin Cities classical music scene in the next few days. As you make plans to honor the fathers in your life, consider the following…

Saturday, 6/15 (tomorrow!)Group Voice Class
10:00-11:30 am at Colonial Church of Edina, 6200 Colonial Way  Edina, MN 55436

Learn to sing for dad – or for your kids!
This is the first of several such opportunities this summer in which Nathan will guide you through an exploration of solo and ensemble singing techniques in the context of a group of other folks all interested in more fully enjoying the skill of singing. It’s a great way to maintain your vocalicity or get your feet wet if you’re considering voice lessons or preparing to join a church, school, or community choir. Each class will be different, so don’t wait until the end of the summer – come to all of them*!  Also, this first one is free of charge.
If you know you are coming tomorrow, call Nathan at 952 – 212 – 4017 or email n . p . bird @ gmail . com  – or just show up at the music center.
*other class dates: 6/28, 7/13, 7/26, 8/10, 8/23 – all at 10:00 am.

Sunday, 6/16 – Music at Wooddale Church Traditional Services
8:30 – Eden Prairie Campus, 6630 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55344
10:30 – Edina Campus, 5532 Wooddale Avenue South, Edina, MN 55424

Worship with your dad!
Nathan will be soloing with the choir on an arrangement of What Wondrous Love is This.  He also has been drooling over the beauteousness of the wind ensemble that will be playing for the service. Greet us and the girls if you attend either of these services (and be sure to wish Nathan a Happy Father’s Day).

And here are three great outdoor events to bring Dad and the kids to…

Opera Under the Stars – MN Opera presents La Boheme
Saturday, 6/15 – 7:30 at Lake Harriet Bandshell, 4135 W Lake Harriet Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Sunday, 6/16 – 7:00 at Shattuck – St. Mary’s in Faribault, 1000 Shumway Ave, Faribault, MN 55021

Nathan has performed in the MN Opera chorus for five productions and can attest to the great talent you will see if you attend one of these events. Their twitter stream boasted some great pics from tonight’s performance in St. Paul. We haven’t decided which one we’re going to – let us know when you’ll be there!

Sunday, 6/16 – Cantus and Classical MPR at Lake Harriet Bandshell
2:00 pm – 4135 W Lake Harriet Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55419

Hear the ensemble that Nathan sang with a couple years back:

“Now an annual Father’s Day tradition, Cantus will perform a free concert at the Lake Harriet Band Shell this Sunday at 2pm in partnership with Classical Minnesota Public Radio. Bring your picnic basket or enjoy the excellent food at Bread & Pickle. The weather forecast is looking beautiful.  It’s the perfect way to enjoy a splendid summer day in Minnesota! This concert also marks Tim Takach’s final Twin Cities performance with Cantus. Come say thank you for his 17 years with the ensemble!” – from Cantus’ site

We hope you will be able to join in on this sliver of our favorites of the many events happening in the area this weekend.  We went to a music-in-the-park event in Minneapolis last night and I kept thinking, “Gosh, this would be a fantastic date night activity.” Some people went all out and brought folding lounge chairs, table, wine and cheese, etc. So, whether you make it a family time or kid-free time, enjoy! Be creative! Make this weekend special!

To whom this concerns – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Let us know what you ended up doing!

~N&N

 

10 Years of Choir

It was 2001 and I was a home schooled highschooler of sixteen at Normandale Community College, thanks to Minnesota’s PSEO opportunities.   While I had been studying voice and piano for a little while, the choir at NCC was my first experience of choral singing.  The sheer mass of sound shattered my perceptions of what was possible with music.  This little college choir made me excited to do more.  In the 10 years since then, I’ve have had many unforgettably wonderful experiences performing with vocal ensembles and choirs.  This post is a small tribute to some of these amazing groups.

The Northwestern College Choirs I had the privilege of singing with cemented the place for choir in my heart.

The ear-training work in NWC Chamber Singers, under the direction of the lovely Dr. Mary Kay Geston prepared me for the rigor of singing with Cantus last year.   Geston’s programming was difficult for my young choral mind, but so enriching.   The contrast between renaissance music one semester followed by vocal jazz in the next was like jumping into a time machine.

NWC’s Varsity Men’s Chorus and College Choir under the baton of Tim Sawyer brought me out of a shell and gave me a community of music and faith that was a lovely thing.   I was privileged to be a part of the life-changing 2006 Eastern European Tour to Germany, Poland, and most notably, Ukraine.

I would be remiss if this post didn’t mention anything about the extension ministries teams at Northwestern College that were such a wonderful community.  As an awkward freshman, I performed and toured alongside some wonderfully talented musicians that took me under their wing and helped me understand my place in college.

Dr. Catherine Sailer, director of the Lamont Chorale at Denver University’s Lamont School of Music, created inspiring and beautiful music with a voracity and clarity that is not often seen.  Not only does she head up the choral department at one of the most elite music schools west of the Mississippi, but she is also a caring mother of two boys.  She is an inspiration for those in this world that are musicians with families.

Cantus.  Oh Cantus.  While it’s more of a vocal ensemble than a choir per se, I still need to mention it.  Few words can describe the joy of performing with such talented men.  Not only was I able to rehearse with them during my temporary position last year, I got to perform two concert programs around the metro area and record a Christmas CD.  They are a non-profit, full-time, self-led male vocal ensemble.  Their performance is crafted in detail.  Their programs are full of meaning.  Their sound is addictive.

The choir that I’m in now is Evangelion.  They exist to bring sacred choral works to Ukraine, especially in secular venues.  I’m thrilled to be working with Dr. Dennis Port, director of Bethel University’s choral program.  I’ll be heading to Ukraine for the third time this summer.  More about this trip later…

Sing with someone.  Join a choir.  Attend a choir concert.  It may change your life.

Cantus at Colonial

image from cantussings.org

Last Friday Nathan and I went to another wonderful Cantus concert at Colonial Church of Edina. It was part of their On the Shoulders of Giants series. For those of you who aren’t familiar with them (if it’s possible), Cantus is a group of nine talented singers with strong artistic vision for enhancing the vocal music scene in the Twin Cities and abroad. Continue reading →