Hancher brings Cantus choral group to town


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When Chris Foss sent in his audition tape to join one of the most prestigious men’s choral ensembles, he never expected to be accepted into Cantus after graduation and then travel the world, giving more than 70 performances a year.

“It’s really just a dream come to true to sing and give the gift of music to people and to travel the world,” he said.

This week, Foss, an Iowa native and bass in the group, will return to his home state this week to perform with the rest of Cantus. The group’s “Anthem” concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. today in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 228 E. Jefferson St.

“I, of course, always have a strong affinity for Iowa,” he said. “I think it’s really exciting for us to bring who we are to the people of Iowa City. The University of Iowa has a great rep for its music program, for its writing program, there’s sort of this great paradigm … it’s a city with a lot of great creativity, and it’ll be great to offer what we have.”

Cantus, a full-time professional men’s vocal ensemble, is based in the Twin Cities. It is one of two full-time groups in the country, and it spends the year touring the United States as well as performing internationally.

“We’ve been sort of crisscrossing through the area; we’ve often tried to make stops in Iowa City,” said Aaron Humble, a tenor in Cantus. “It’s great, we love to be in centers for the arts [and] not just for the arts but for higher learning … usually, those are people who respond well to our program.”

Cantus tries to program concerts that are collections of good music but also contain a narrative thread, Humble said.

Cantus’ “Anthem” program, to be performed this weekend, relates to what brings people together to sing, using music to celebrate life and marriage all around the world.

“Throughout the whole concert is the idea of people coming together,” Humble said. “That is something that usually speaks to people in university communities.”

This year, Hancher, which will host Cantus, has dedicated its programming to focusing on looking deeply at the issues in the world today as well.

Jacob Yarrow, the Hancher programming director, said this is exactly why he is excited to have Cantus in town.

“Anthem,” he said, is a part of the section “worth fighting for,” which revolves around what people are will to rally around.

“They sing about identity and pride,” he said. “It made it a really interesting fit with that strain of the program.”

Yarrow has hoped to bring Cantus here for a while, and he is excited to finally hear the group sing in Iowa City.

“I have followed its work and tried to figure out the proper and best ways to engage [the group] with our audience in Iowa City … and I finally figured out the right place and time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the pure and gorgeous sounds they make as an ensemble and how those sounds will resonate in St. Mary’s Church. Just in a short second, the sheer beauty their sound will make is breathtaking.”