Photo courtesy of Curtis Johnson
I walked in the doors of the Cowles Center unsure of what I was about to experience on my Friday night off. I had heard phenomenal things about Cantus, but beyond my limited knowledge of them being an all-men’s vocal ensemble, I knew literally nothing. As it was, I found my millennial-self lost in an endless sea of Baby Boomers.
The lights were low. Seven men, dressed in button-ups, jackets, and dark jeans, entered single-file from stage left and lined up in front of the backup drums, guitar, and accordion and took their places at the crescent of microphones. Their lips parted and lungs filled with air as angelic and ethereal tones began to swirl through the theater. Within three minutes, the warmth and blend of their voices pulled me in and I suddenly understood the hype. They already had me hooked—hard.
It’s apparent Cantus is not your typical boy band. This self-directed and full-time vocal group, based in the Twin Cities, creates stunning choral arrangements of modern-day classics and pop songs. Their seasonal performances typically feature the eight male members of Cantus—four tenors, two baritones, and two bassists—but this weekend, the group was down a singer due to unexpected illness. But you know what they all say: The show must go on. And it most definitely did.
In Covers: A Pop Concert, performed June 1-8, Cantus features Fleetwood Mac’s iconic 1977 album Rumours in all its glory. However, the show opened with a selection of pop songs made famous by Pentatonix, Daft Punk, Styx, Charlie Puth, and Destiny’s Child—including the sassy crowd favorite, “Bills, Bills, Bills.” The group transitioned into side one of Rumours and nailed their arrangements of “Don’t Stop,” “The Chain,” and my personal favorite of the evening, “Gold Dust Woman.” Following the 20-minute intermission, they sang side two of the album and rounded out the concert with more pop songs, including Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
All too soon, the performance came to a halt. We jumped up and out of our seats, cheering and roaring, and offered a thunderous clap of appreciation until Cantus came back onstage and (spoiler alert for those going on June 7 and 8!) entertained the request of just one more song. Their standing ovation was an arrangement of a Celine Dion 1989 hit.
There was no lack of passion, emotion, humor, or fun during the two-hour show. While transitioning between songs, the cast would chat about the production of the pieces, insert occasional blurbs and explanations on their artistic choices, and even throw in jokes (some clean, some not-so-clean) to give the audience a glimpse of their charismatic and charming personalities.
To my very pleasant and unexpected surprise, I lived out my wildest Pitch Perfect fantasies in a real-life, in-person concert. And lucky for you, there’s a chance to do the same at their last two performances of the season on June 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cowles Center of Dance and Performing Arts.