Kantorei, the Minnesota-based a cappella choral ensemble, hosts a gala and silent auction 7:30-11 p.m. Feb. 8, at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul.
Formed in 1988, the non-profit singing group has been led for more than a quarter-century by Axel Theimer, a native of Tirol, Austria, and alumnus of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.
Jill Brown, a resident of Blaine, and Maggie Akhavan of Coon Rapids, lend their voices to the choir and describe the musical gift presented to audiences.
“We perform music that is too delicate for a large symphonic choir and too difficult for your average church choir,” said Akhavan.
Brown adds, “Singing with Kantorei has been very rewarding. The conductor is in demand for his skills all over the world … and we have sung in fabulous venues around the metro and been part of a thriving choral community.”
But Kantorei sings, not only to entertain audiences, but to share a passion for lifelong singing.
Members of the a cappella group range in age from mid-20s to the early 60s and have roots stretching from musical scales written more than a lifetime ago.
“I’ve been singing since I was four years old in the Cherub Choir at church,” said Akhavan, who grew up outside New York City and remembers the Metropolitan Opera visiting her elementary school.
Brown has also known music from an early age. “Growing up (in Paynesville, Minn.) I thought every town must have a lot of talented musicians,” she said.
“There are several beautiful voices in my family. My extended family has a long-standing tradition of singing the same table grace at holidays (and) music was part of my daily life through college.”
Through its outreach programs, Kantorei activates its mission to “share a passion for lifelong singing” by educating children, adolescents and the general public about choral singing and performance.
Each year, Kantorei works with students as interns. Those students then return to their school or church choir, sharing lessons they’ve learned and overflowing with newfound enthusiasm and musical energies.
“We demonstrate to them that music doesn’t have to end after high school. You can sing at any time in your life no matter what you’re doing in your life. Music can be part of your daily life for many, many years,” said Akhavan, who has sung with Kantorei for 19 years.
A few of the pieces to be performed at the Feb. 8 gala include “Pilgrim’s Hymn” by Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus, “The Rose in the Middle of Winter” by Bob Chilcott and “Go, Lovely Rose” by Brian Myer.
Silent auction items offered during the event include Twins tickets, handmade jewelry, wine baskets, piano tuning, St. John’s pottery and many more.
Money raised during the event will fund music purchases, performance venue rental fees and other organizational needs.
Tickets are $40 and are available at Kantorei.net/tickets, by email at [email protected], or by phone at 612-217-4647. Tickets may also be purchased at the door, but space is limited and tickets go fast, so advanced purchase is recommended.
Directed since 1988 by Theimer, Kantorei is one of the premier choral ensembles in Minnesota. Kantorei’s 40 singers have set a standard in Minnesota for rich and effortless choral sound, according to its gala press release.
The choir’s approach to singing – with an integral focus on vocal freedom and health – allows the singers to communicate emotional and expressive content of music and text with natural beauty, the press release states.
Kantorei’s special reputation for interpreting European choral music – including seldom-heard romantic pieces, sacred masterworks, and Austrian and German folk melodies – is drawn from the heritage of founder Theimer, according to the press release.
Future Kantorei events include spring performances, “How Can I Keep from Singing,” May 3 and 4 in Owatonna and in St. Paul.
To learn more about Kantorei, visit the ensemble’s website at Kantorei.net.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]