Erick Lichte, a co-founder of the all-male choral group Cantus, attributes the success of the nine-member ensemble to a series of happy accidents.
In 1998 he and his college-aged buddies unknowingly began to piece together a plan that more or less guaranteed that all the musical "accidents" likely to come their way would be happy.
Their goal was to have fun, and that meant creating music in which everyone had input, creating performances that rewarded spontaneity and individual expression. Accordingly, they ran their rehearsals along egalitarian lines. Everyone was a leader, but no one a boss.
Cantus performs at 8 tonight in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center.
Over the years Cantus has developed a standard rehearsal formula. Before beginning a piece, Lichte (who works as an artistic director, but no longer sings) meets with a committee of three singers, that year's "artistic committee." Together they discuss the music and assign each piece a "producer," who is responsible for guiding the choir through the initial portions of the rehearsal process. Eventually, that person steps aside and artistic control is taken over by the ensemble as a whole.
"You have to have people who are not only great singers and work well with the others in the ensemble, but also great collaborators, people who can give and take criticism without getting bent out of shape. It takes the healthiest of egos," said Lichte last week from Minnesota.
Cantus got its start at St. Olaf College, where the members sang together daily in the school choir.
Still hungry for music, even after more than seven hours of weekly rehearsals, they decided to form a chamber choir that would meet on the weekends. That was 1995. Over the next three years, the group grew in membership from four to 12.
"When we began, the oldest of us were just sophomores. We had no aspirations to do this professionally, just to get together and sing. Then in 1998, after the oldest guys had graduated from college, we set off in a 15-passenger van with the intention of giving some concerts around the country. We just hoped to be able to earn about as much money as a typical summer job would bring in," said Lichte.
It was a good trip. So good, in fact that some of the group decided that singing might be a pretty nice way to make a living. Over the next two years, the singers set up a nonprofit organization, rehearsed, and gave occasional concerts. Meanwhile, they waited for the younger members to finish college. Once everyone had graduated, they went to work full-time.
Cantus has since released eight CDs, all on its own label, and gives approximately 70 concerts annually.
Cantus performs at 8 tonight in BGSU's Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center. Tickets range form $18 to $34. Information: 419-372-8171 or 800-589-2224.
- Steven Cornelius