The choir was part of the colleges Sing for Joy hymn festival which toured the upper Midwest. The tour included stops in Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Mich., Cleveland, Fort Wayne, Ind., Chicago, Minneapolis and finally, Northfield.
With its theme, Songs of a Grateful Praise, the tour aimed at inviting the listener into a time of worship and thanksgiving.
The theme of our festival centers on the many gifts from God, said Janet Thompson, director of Church Relations at St. Olaf. We sing about the wonders of creation, the beauty of music, the joy of human love, and the best gift of all Jesus.
At each venue, Cantorei was accompanied by local guest choirs, which ranged from high school choirs, church choirs and even the St. Olaf Choir.
The St. Olaf Choir served well in an unfamiliar capacity, as backup for Cantorei. As College Pastor Bruce Benson put it, it was a rare experience to attend a concert in which the St. Olaf Choir was the other choir.
In addition, each audience member was invited to sing along, equipped with a service bulletin with music and biblical texts. The rich variety of voices and song did not just provide music, but engaged everyone present in the service.
Benson and St. Olaf Choir director Anton Armstrong also shared their unique personalities and thoughts into the tour, traveling along with the ensemble.
Armstrong began each performance with a contemporary reading of the creation story from James Weldon Johnsons Gods Trombones. The reading was given life as Director of Cantorei John Ferguson playfully provided organ music to enhance the power and wonder of the story.
The focus fluctuated from the ever-present organ part to Armstrongs emotionally-charged reading, which at times echoed off the walls of the chapel.
Throughout each performance, Benson offered warm reflections on the music and the liturgical texts, granting a rich diversity of views to bring varied meaning to the meaning-laden words.
The amazing voices of the Cantorei Choir propelled each event. As the concert began, the audience was invited to stand and join together in All Creatures of Our God and King.
The concert continued with When the Morning Stars Together, a hymn by Albert F. Bayley, in which the choir sang in unison with the audience but then broke out into perfect harmony.
Other hymns included This is My Song, Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service, Rejoice Ye Pure of Heart and an incredible rendition of Christ Has Arisen in which the choir provided the stanzas of the traditional Tanzanian song to the sound of percussion and drumming.
The festival ended each performance with an incredible rendition of Robert Lowreys How Can I Keep from Singing. The choirs warm voices and powerful sound echoed throughout the venue and encouraged the listener to focus on the blessing in life.
The hymn asks, Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing; it finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
After each wonderful, passionate performance by the Cantorei Choir during their Sing for Joy hymn festival tour, one could ask the same question.