Monday, December 17, 2007

Wrapping things up for the Pops tour, our last show of the Holiday tour with them happened last night.

The scheduled plane ride to Newark got cancelled--the weather hit hard again in Boston town--so we shuffled off to the Amtrack station, once we got word over the phone and hopped on a six hour train ride down instead. The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) pushed the show back an hour to accommodate the bad weather travelling, and the show kicked off just after 8pm. Wonderful crowd, truly amazing concert hall (gorgeous looks and sound), and Maestro Lockhart announced from the stage that it wouldn't be the last time that Cantus would be seen with the Pops--what a thrill! It appears that all parties were very happy with our performances and collaboration with the orchestra. We do hope that another collaboration will come very soon.

Feels good that all our hard work paid off, and we definitely stretched ourselves on the tour, both musically and personally. The confidence of the last show was a far cry from the initial nervousness that I'm sure we all felt a few weeks ago when we had our first rehearsal in Arkansas. We survived snow-storms, long drives, and nick-of-time arrivals, but the experiences and audiences were all worth it.

Oh, by the way, forgot to mention our fun times too, visiting sights in the East, like Colonial Williamsburg, malls in Maine, beautiful New Haven and Providence, went to some movies, and even a Boston Bruins game! Ate at some fine restaurants, pubs, and sweet shops, too (not to mention cotton candy and popcorn at some of the arenas we played at...)

The men of Cantus wish to express their sincerest thanks to the entire staff, crew, and musicians of the Boston Pops. We all had a wonderful time getting to know and work with you!

As we move into January, we welcome a new tenor (Eric Hopkins) to the fold for the second half of our '07-08 Season, and we look forward to telling you more about him soon. We will also continue with tales from our on-the-road adventures at our new blogging home in January '08:! We hope you will join us there.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tales From the Road is evolving!

Since our travels to Africa and extended tour with the Boston Pops started, we discovered the virtues of keeping a more regular blog presence, so starting this month, we'll link you directly to our latest entry, but invite you to enjoy learning about our experiences more often on our touring blogs at! We will provide links to upcoming blogs on our website.

In between those African and Boston tours, we had the pleasure of meeting and singing for saxophone legend Branford Marsalis! He was speaking at Westminister Church's nationally broadcast Town Hall Forum, and took some time out of his schedule to listen to some of our rehearsal. We sang some songs for him and chatted for awhile. He was very supportive and enjoyed our music--who knows? Maybe we'll end up working together sometime...

Touring is always interesting, visiting many new places, meeting new friends--but also difficult at times. You miss your loved ones, you spend lots of hours perfecting a nap sitting up (or without strangling yourself with your iPod headphones). We've been fortunate this time around with so much airplane travel, so we're probably a little spoiled! It's so much faster than vans. We're also looking very forward to getting home to do our own Christmas show, All is Calm, based on the Christmas Day truce of WWI. This year is filled with so many fulfilling collaborations, Boston Pops, Theater Latté Da, Trio Mediaeval, St. Olaf Choir--but we'll have to tell you about all that stuff in another installment! -G

Monday, December 10, 2007

Little hiatus

7:00 am Well, sitting at Logan, waiting to head home for a couple of days after the show in Worcester, Mass. We just found out the hard way that there was a discrepancy between our printed itinerary and the actual flight time--NOOO! Mostly just an inconvenience, but I'm really jonesing to see my wife after being away for two weeks, and not really interested in hanging out for 3 hours--maybe I'll check the desk in a little while to see if there are any seats left to go standby.

Looks like we will finish our tour next week in more hockey arenas--during the sing-alongs, I'd like to hop in a penalty box to get a laugh, but they keep cordoning them off. What's the big idea?! A coincidence that the last two shows featured wine/dining tables on the floor of the arenas--and our audiences were much more loose and vocal with their support? Hmmm.

7:30 am We definitely miss the orchestra now after the shows, since they are coming in every night on the busses form Boston (run-out style), and not staying in hotels with us anymore. Now to check on that standby seat...

8:00 am...success! Costing me 25 bucks, but since I didn't check any bags this morning, I'm hopping on this plane. See you Thursday [skips onto plane]!

12:00 pm Ok, so they couldn't fit the carry-ons for about twenty people this morning, so we all got gate-checked. We get sent down to the carousel by the flight attendant, but none of our gate-checked bags show up. Long wait ensues, with some suspense when the agent starts to tell us that the bags might not have actually been put on the flight, when from behind her, another agent says they have been found. As a result for the thirty minute delay and the runaround, they hand out milage vouchers. At least it's a gesture. I sometimes wonder how companies stay in business sometimes...

7:30 pm Anyway, I am thrilled to be home. Hope the other guys made it alright--haven't heard from any of them, nor should I--When we finish our shows next weekend we'll have been together all but six days since Halloween! Time for a two-day break, then back on the horse! Some of us are looking forward to watching the Bruins play the Devils on Thursday night when we get back to Boston! -G

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Good review from our Buffalo show

Some words from the review of last night's Cantus show in Buffalo-our first time to perform there. Nice to get back to our regular touring repertiore. We won't do another regular touring show until January (more Xmas stuff first).

"The nine voices of Cantus sing without a conductor, and on the highest professional level. Their ensemble and intonation are impeccable, and their choral sonority is smooth...a richly textured and complex program they offered, but I found myself noting passages as “ethereal” or “sublime” quite often."

The church had a fantastic acoustic to sing in--quite a change form the colosseums we've been in and out of. We had wings at The Anchor Bar across the street from the venue--the birthplace of Buffalo Wings.

We arrived in Providence, RI this afternoon--beautifully decked out for the holidays--can't wait to take in the city! -G

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Halfway there!

As the audience filed in to the Giant Center in Hershey, PA, I was busy having dinner with the crew backstage, chatting with Dennis Alves, the Pops' Director of Artistic Planning, and Kathleen Drohan, publicist extraordinaire, who lined up a local TV spot for us before the show. Neat to learn about the Pops' perspective of the business, since doing a coloseum show is something we don't do on a regular basis!

Our collaborative pieces with the orchestra have been lots of fun, including the two Argentine carols by Ariel Ramirez and African carol Betelehemu that we brought along, and the pieces arranged by the Pops: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, Twas the Night Before Christmas, and of course, Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols, a long-time favorite of both ensembles. It's great to hear their famous Sleigh Ride arrangement and other uptempo numbers from the wings every night--this orchestra can really swing!

After the show, the Pops treated everyone to a party back at the lodge. We got a better opportunity this night to mix with the orchestra at large (since we can't really do so when we are on stage), and many new friendships were struck up. Since we've broken off for a few days to do a solo show in Buffalo, we can tell you that we miss the orchestra a lot. Can't wait to get to the next leg of the tour with them.

As for the two previous nights, Schenectady's show was greeted with enthusiastic fans, and the Storrs show went very well--the audience was very appreciative on a very cold and blustery night. We finished the first half of shows in Bethlehem, PA, at Lehigh University. We stayed at the Hotel Bethlehem, a lovely boutique hotel on a quaint Main Street. -G

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tour update

Well, we're reaching the end of part one of our tour with the Pops--Posting from the lobby at our hotel in Hartford. Had a great show at UCONN's Jorgensen Hall, and the orchestra will head back to Boston after tonight's show at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Cantus will fly out to Buffalo at the same time, for a show midweek (our regular touring program, and it's been a little while since we've done it, so some rehearsal will be in order). Flying on the charter jets has been fun, since only about 90 of us are loaded on a 737--everybody can have a row to him or herself. Miami Air has been fantastic. We're a little apprehensive about our travels this week, what with the snow and ice in the Midwest, but I'm sure we'll be alright in the end. Once we're back from Buffalo, we hit a few more New England cities, many of which Cantus has not had the pleasure of playing yet--building new audiences is great, and being a guest of the Pops certainly doesn't harm the group's image... We look forward to blogging some more after a few more days. Take care everybody.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Photo update for the tour

We've got an update for you. Having a fun time touring with all these great players. Tonight we play Hershey PA, at a hockey arena--we'll see lots of people tonight, that's for sure!

Some pics:
Our low voices kicking out The Grinch!

Here's a picture of one of our encores-the African carol Betelehemu, featuring at right dancing Cantus members, and Gary on djembe is joined at left with the Pops' percussion section and conductor Keith Lockhart.

Guitar sound check: