Q&A with Cantus

Have you heard the story of the Christmas truce of 1914? It centers on a remarkable World War I respite between Allied Forces and German soldiers in “no man's land” on Christmas, 1914. You can read more about it in this article from the Minnesota Post.

This incredible story is being brought to life on our stage as the next performance in our 10x10 Arts Series. A collaboration between one of America's finest professional male vocal ensemble, Cantus, and one the most innovative theater companies touring today, Theater Latte Da, "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" will be performed on Thursday, November 29 at 7pm.

Aaron Humble, one of the members of Cantus, took time out to answer some of our questions about this collaboration, and more. Thank you Aaron!


1. What makes this collaboration so special/unique?  

Cantus is a collaborative chamber ensemble and Theater Latte Da often brings elements of the workshop into the rehearsal room. Writer and Director Peter Rothstein brought all of the materials to the table but the show was really put together with all of the artists in the room. It's also rare to find a theatrical production where all of the music – feature pieces and underscoring – are provided by the human voice.

2. How has this performances influenced your thoughts and opinions about current wars?

I'm thrilled that these wars are winding down. But when we started performing All is Calm several years ago, there was no end in sight for either war. What struck me was that this incredible moment is now all but impossible: Brave soldiers walking into the middle of "no man's land" with their hands raised singing Christmas Carols. Even though they were enemies they shared many commonalities – even a few familiar tunes. As we've found ourselves involved in wars in the Middle East, it's a culture that is so unfamiliar to most of us: The language, the religion, and the customs. It's harder to find a commonality and thus easier to always view these fellow human beings as "the enemy." If any brave man or woman tried to lay down his or her weapon in a modern battle field, they would be shot if they tried to approach the opposing side. And in reality, most of the time they're not even in the same vicinity.  

3. How does the group prepare before each show? 

When we arrive at the venue we check in with the tech folks to make sure they don't have any questions for the basic tech needs of the show. From there we do a sound check and rehearse anything that might need a little tweaking for ensemble or timing. Then we have dinner together and get dressed. There's a wonderful camaraderie between the members of show.

4. What special traditions or rituals does Cantus have?

Everybody has their own routine. Cantus and the actors that come with us do not do any group rituals or routines other than a "huddle" before the show. We huddle together, give a few notes or words of wisdom and do our own version of "go team" with whatever someone calls out before the huddle ends.

5. Which musical artist’s voice do you find most captivating?

My all-time favorite singer is Fritz Wunderlich, a long dead German tenor. More recently, Ruth Ann Swenson and Renee Fleming.  

6. Last song listened to on your Ipod?

Hmmm.  Probably Herbert Howells’ Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis “Collegium Regale.”

7. What’s your favorite Holiday memory?

Every year we bring All is Calm to about 10,000 people.  In recent years, my favorite holiday memory is bringing a show that is poignant and not "saccharine" like so much holiday programming is today. Seeing how much this story has meant to people has been really inspiring.  

Cantus and Theater Latte Da in "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914"

8. What kinds of art has been an inspiration to you?

More than I have time to list. More than anything, I'm inspired by art that speaks to people. Art that is meaningful, not obtuse. 

9. Is there something you enjoy collecting?


10. What has been a memorable place to perform and why?

Cantus once sang in a sculpture called the Sky Pesher at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. It was as full as it could be with maybe 35 people. We did some improvising and there was just an incredible energy in the room.

11. Is there a dish you love to cook when you are home?

Most of us just love to cook when we're at home because we eat out so much on the road. I'm a big fan of turkey burgers. I'm always coming up with new ways to make them tasty!

12. Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey?

A lot of voice teachers have a poster that says "if you're not practicing someone else is." It's not enough to be a great voice, you have to be a great musician and you have to be incredibly prepared. People don't have time to wait for you to catch up even if you're super talented!

13. Do you have a favorite sport or team that you enjoy watching and supporting?

I grew up in Northeast Ohio near Cleveland. If there's any lesson you learn there from professional sports it's humility... and knowing how to be a good loser!

14. What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

Maybe an architect.  

Come see Aaron and the rest of the Cantus group perform with Theater Latte Da in "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" this Thursday, November 29!