Professional male ensemble chooses Andover concert choir for residency program

Their hearts filled with awe and their voices lifting song to the heavens, Andover High School concert choir members eagerly anticipate experiencing Cantus Vocal Ensemble’s year-long high school residency.

Andover High School's concert choir members eagerly anticipates Cantus Vocal Ensemble’s year-long residency at the high school.
Andover High School’s concert choir members eagerly anticipates Cantus Vocal Ensemble’s year-long residency at the high school.

“Our students are so excited and feel very honored to have been chosen by Cantus for this residency. They’re giddy actually,” said Andover director of choirs Melanie Kjellberg, describing choir members’ anticipation of the program.

“My greatest hope for our choir members is that they will understand what it is to be a musician of that caliber. My greatest joy is that our kids will have a chance to work with musicians of that level – especially for our men to witness and experience a men’s ensemble of that caliber.”

The 2013-2014 residency came about when after receiving an invitation to apply, Andover High School’s concert choir won one of just three spots in the program.

“The opportunity to work with Cantus is unbelievable,” said Anna Wagner, vice president of the choir. “When we auditioned for the residency program last year, we were just excited to see what could come out of it, so it’s crazy to think that we will be singing with one of the best male performance groups in the world.”

During the residency, concert choir members will interact, rehearse, learn from and perform with Cantus six times, with the year-long program culminating in a May 17 finale concert.

“Cantus is so generous and so genuine – I am so excited to get going and to work with them,” said Simeon Toronto, senior tenor and concert choir president.

“I’m always impressed with the complexity of their music. They nail it every time.

“With this residency, I expect Andover High School kids to have a greater appreciation for music and the opportunities you can have if you stick with it. Cantus is a great example of making beautiful music and what you can do if you stick to it,”  said Toronto.

Cantus, one of the nation’s few full-time professional men’s ensembles, was formed 17 years ago by members of St. Olaf College choirs.

The ensemble, which currently features nine male vocalists from throughout the United States, has grown in prominence with its distinctive approach to creating music.

Acclaimed by Fanfare magazine as “the premiere men’s vocal ensemble in the United States,” Cantus is known worldwide for its trademark warmth and blend and its engaging performances of music ranging from the Renaissance to the 21st century.

Working without a conductor, the members of Cantus rehearse and perform as chamber musicians, each contributing to the entirety of the artistic process.

Integral to the Cantus mission, Kjellberg said, is its commitment to preserve and deepen music education in the schools.

Cantus works with more than 5,000 students each year in master class and workshop settings across the country, she said.

“Cantus wants students to be very invested in the program,” Kjellberg said.

And for those students, lessons delivered by Cantus regarding breathing techniques, vocal production, artistic elements and the responsibility of the musician to bring the composer’s message to the audience will enhance and broaden their musical experience, she said.

“They (the choir members) are in awe of Cantus, definitely kind of mesmerized and this will get them more excited to sing themselves and to become consumers of music, too,” Kjellberg said.

Members of Andover’s choirs already enjoy an impressive reputation. The concert choir has been invited to and will perform in New York City’s Carnegie Hall next spring.

It will also be one of the featured choirs performing during a music festival at Concordia University-Moorhead in January.

Not only that, Kjellberg said each year the choir comprises many all-state and honors choir members and smaller groups frequently create their own crescendos, forming ensembles and rehearsing and performing throughout the season.

“We have quite a group here,” said Kjellberg.

Choir members represent a broad range of high school students and with members including everyone from athletes, actors and actresses to high-achieving scholars, the choir provides a stage for an eclectic and dedicated group of students, she said.

Sue Austreng is at
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  • Sara

    I’m so excited for Cantus to come. This year will definitely be the highlight of my life.