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Unsung Lutherans: more seasonal concert suggestions

Shortly before my sister married a Lutheran seminary student, we discovered a shocking fact: He couldn’t sing.

More precisely, when he did sing, mothers placed their hands protectively over their children’s ears and dogs howled. The Lutherans ordained him anyway and subsequent congregations learned to appreciate atonal liturgy.

But let’s give Lutherans their due. Here are two more recommended concerts of vocal music for the holidays, both with Lutheran connections and both offering performances this weekend. My previous recommendations for seasonal singing are here.

The National Lutheran Choir: ‘Love Incarnate’
Singing alumni from regional Lutheran colleges form the nucleus of this group that receives less publicity than other choral ensembles, but is highly regarded among its peers. Conducted by David Cherwien, the choir is performing three concerts at the Basilica of Saint Mary this weekend before taking the show on the road to Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis.

Yes, the program includes something by F. Melius Christiansen, the man who put St. Olaf College on the international choral map. There also will be music by Praetorius, Gabrieli, Franz Biebl, Benjamin Britten and Minnesota’s own Stephen Paulus.

The tradition of the choir’s Christmas concert is for singers to move around the space and for audience participation in the singing of traditional carols. I haven’t been given any tip-offs, but I suspect the Basilica’s acoustics will be used to accentuate the choir’s performance of “Angel Song II,” which is billed as being done in “surround sound.” The work by prolific British composer Will Todd is a wordless, five-minute piece that utilizes what one reviewer described as “tonal clusters.” It should be ethereal.
Times and places: 4:30 and 8 p.m. today (Friday) and 8 p.m. Saturday, Basilica of Saint Mary, Hennepin Avenue and North 17th Street, Minneapolis. Tickets: $10-$25 at the door, online or call 612-722-2301.

Christmas with Cantus
Four guys started this group during their sophomore year at St. Olaf College and it’s now evolved into a nine-member male ensemble that performs without a conductor. Officially, Cantus has an artistic director, Erick Lichte, three artistic co-directors and a fairly esoteric artistic philosophy. (To read about it, go here.) 

To hear their self-described “bel canto” singing is a treat. Their holiday performances this weekend and next Friday include sacred and secular standards, some in jazzy arrangements. Their final performance next Friday morning (Dec. 19) will be broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio.
Times and places: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul; 4 p.m. Sunday, St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church, 630 Wayzata Blvd. E., Wayzata; 10:30 a.m. Dec. 19, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Nicollet Mall and 11th Street, Minneapolis. Tickets: $12.50-$25. Online or call 612-435-0055.

On a completely different note, Cantus also is providing the vocals for a musical drama that opens next week at the Pantages Theater in Minneapolis. “All is Calm” is a retelling of the famous — and highly mythologized — “Christmas truce” that took place in 1914 during the first year of World War I. Written and directed by Peter Rothstein from Theater Latte Da, it was performed to acclaim last year and is being brought back for a short run. More details here. You also can check out MinnPost’s 2007 in-depth story or check out Camille LeFevre’s piece coming Monday in Arts Arena.

Seeking reader input: What’s on your list of must-see concerts? Feel free to comment below.

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