Vocal ensemble Cantus brings light to the holidays
New Classical Tracks - Paul Scholtz and Alex Nishibun from Cantus (Extended)
Cantus — Into the Light (Signum)
Each December, we find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of winter, as we prepare to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the new. It can be a time of great promise. That’s Cantus’ idea behind their new holiday recording, Into the Light.
“We try not to take for granted that we were able to come together and sing, which is what so many folks based in singing community choirs couldn’t do,” says tenor Paul Scholtz. “But we had the privilege to do that because it is our full-time job. We wanted to bring that hopeful and celebratory energy to these performances.”
Tenor Alexander Nishibun joins Scholtz to talk about their new holiday release.
Tell me about Rosphanye Powell’s ‘Glory Hallelujah to the Newborn King.’
Alexander: “It has a killer opening solo by one of our great baritones, Rob Kelly Hines. One of the things we love about it is that Powell sets this beautiful poetry and creates this visceral excitement you feel in the music itself. It was also voiced for male voices by her husband, William C. Powell. So having that wonderful collaboration between these two artists and bringing it to Cantus was a real treat for all of us.”
Tell me about Bebe Boykin’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium.’
Alexander: “That's one of my favorite pieces in this album. ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ is this wonderful response to a text in Latin that I was introduced to us by a renaissance piece by Vitoria, which is about 500-something years old. Hearing it from this modern voice is astounding because it has this gravitas and weight. There's a huge respect for the language, which you can hear in how Boykin sets it. You hear the influence of the 21st-century ear and the 20th-century artists. You can get that sense because of how she treats the text. That informs us how we approach that particular song because of how she sets the lyrics.”
Do you have a favorite track on the album?
Paul: “The first one that comes to mind is Joni Mitchell's ‘River.’ She's talked about it being a song she wrote for folks who feel lonely during Christmas. I think the way that consciousness can capture essentially what is a transcribed piano part underneath some soloists is beautiful. There's motion, which brings up and highlights the text.”
Tell me about your reaction to premiering a new arrangement of ‘Silent Night.’
Paul: “Christopher H. Harris has been a friend of the ensemble for a few years. We've programmed some of his pieces. He's an emerging composer and getting a lot of attention now, which is well-deserved. He agreed to write this brand new arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ that allows us to explore some of the complex harmonies he put in here. It's one thing to see your line and to sing it, but then to have it come to life for the first time. This is a brand new arrangement, which means to have it come to life for you in that rehearsal room is an extraordinary moment.”
To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Cantus — Into the Light (Signum Store)
Cantus — Into the Light (Amazon)
Cantus (official site)