Cantus, America's newest full-time male vocal ensemble, proudly presents part two of their groundbreaking Christmas offering - Comfort and Joy. Conceived as a whole, Comfort and Joy tells the Christmas story from two different perspectives and two separate attitudes; the music of volume one embodies the feeling of Christmas comfort, while volume two's repertoire focuses on Yuletide joy. Comfort and Joy: Volume 1 was released in October, 2004. To tell the Christmas story in song, Comfort and Joy: Volume 2 highlights Cantus' diverse repertoire and focuses on music from around the world. Standout tracks include Babatunde Olatunji's 'Betelehemu,' Ariel Ramirez' 'Los Reyes Magos' and Erick Lichte's 5/4 tour de force jazz arrangement of 'Deck the Halls.' Digitally recorded, edited and mastered in 24-bit sound by Stereophile Magazine Editor-in-Chief John Atkinson, Comfort and Joy: Volume Two is a state-of-the-art audiophile recording. It is gorgeously packaged in a regal blue tri-fold case with metallic O-sleeve that represents Cantus' continued commitment to producing records that wed the finest choral music with beautiful artwork and packaging. Review from American Record Guide Comfort probes the softer, more reflective side of the season: the miraculous mystery of what Christians everywhere count as the greatest gift ever lavished on mankind. We wallow here in the smooth serenity of plainchant and antiphon; we melt into the peace and reassurance of the gentlest and most beautiful carols from manifold traditions. From ancient classics to modern folk and spiritual arrangements, every piece here radiates like aura. While all of it is delicious, perhaps the most magical moments for me came from the juxtaposition of two settings of â€-O Magnum Mysterium' separated by some 400 years, but hardly in spirit: by Jacob Handl (Gallus) and Morten Lauridsen. Joy dances and sparkles in more jubilant mode. Now we get to celebrate and make merry. Similar cultural diversity reigns, with some emphasis on Afro-American traditions, to include some ebulliently jazzy touches. Again, it's all wonderful ...quot; but among my happiest discoveries are the exuberant and beautifully crafted Four Carols by Halsey Stevens. One of the first things the concertgoers and critics alike pick up on while hearing these talented gents is how much they love making music together. That love enables them to achieve a level of emotional intensity that few choirs can duplicate. It all makes for non-stop throat-lumps and goose-bumps. Their emotional power seems all the more incongruous, delivered as it is in thoroughly masculine context. Their technical command astounds; their rich sonorities caress both the ear and the heart. If you love the sound of an adult male choir (no countertenors), you must get to know these singers. I've reviewed all three of their previous releases, and every one of them moved me to the core. One of my fondest hopes is to someday hear them in concert. There's nothing here you won't like ...quot; from the stunning sound quality to the striking packaging. You'll be hard pressed to find lovelier or more novel holiday music anywhere. Lindsay Koob - American Record Guide HISTORY Gaining recognition as one of America's finest professional male vocal ensembles, Cantus enjoys a vigorous schedule of national tours, subscription concerts in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, several innovative residencies and outreach programs, and recording. The Washington Post called the singers' sound 'beaming and elastic' and referred to their music-making as 'spontaneous grace.' Stereophile Magazine declared: 'the sheer beauty of the unaccompanied male voices (and the) art of (these) professional singers proved overwhelming.' The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported: 'The Minnesotans come across as down-to-earth types who present their music with the eagerness of hometown guys singing for the pleasure of friends and neighbors.' Cantus' repertoire spans all periods and genres, including contemporary works, art songs, folk music, spirituals, and pop. The ensemble has commissioned several new works, including 'Two Laments on Dylan Thomas' by Kenneth Jennings, 'Songs from Matengo Folk Tales' by Peter Hamlin, 'Journey to Sekhet-Aanru: Four Ancient Egyptian Magic Rituals' by Mike McFerron commissioned through the American Composers Forum as well as their newest commission 'A True Heart is Waiting' by Twin Cities composer Edie Hill. In addition to these commissions, much of Cantus' music is composed and arranged by it's members. Cantus' coast-to-coast tours have included performances throughout the United States. The 2004-05 season included dates in Nashville, Austin, San Francisco, St. Louis and many other U.S. cities. In the summer of 2003 Cantus made it's European debut at France's Polyfolia Festival. Cantus made it's debut with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in December 2001 in a program titled 'Cantus and Carols,' and now appears annually in what has now become a holiday tradition for both Cantus and the SPCO. Cantus has performed hundreds of concerts across North America. The ensemble has performed at the American Choral Directors' Association's national and regional conventions and numerous choral festivals. In the summer of 2002 the ensemble sang to great acclaim at the Oregon Bach Festival and at the Sixth World Symposium on Choral Music in Minneapolis. In accordance with it's founding mission statement, Cantus is an active proponent of music education, encouraging people of all ages - especially young men - to sing. It's members are frequent clinicians at festivals, schools and universities throughout the country. Presently, Cantus is the resident artist at St. John's University in Collegeville, MN. Cantus has recorded seven CDs on it's own label, Cantus Recordings, which are nationally distributed by CollegiumUSA. Their most recent CD, a Christmas album entitled Comfort and Joy: Volume 1, received rave reviews from the critics and public alike. Of the ensemble's first two recordings, Let Your Voice Be Heard (2001), and ...against the dying of the light (2002), American Record Guide declared, 'male chorus fans are in for rare and enchanting treats here. Watch for this unique and charismatic group - It is just the sort of un-stuffy and engaging ensemble this nation needs more of.' Cantus' 'Music for Men's Voices' choral series is published by the Neil A. Kjos Music Company. REVIEWS FOR CANTUS 'In it's Los Angeles debut Saturday in UCLA's Schoenberg Hall, Cantus sounded 50 voices strong. Wonderful.' Los Angeles Times 'The Minnesotans come across as down-to-earth types who present their music with the eagerness of hometown guys singing for the pleasure of friends and neighbors.' Cleveland Plain Dealer 'These twentysomethings obviously love what they do, and they do it well. Their genre-crossing musical phrasings were consistently polished and synchronized. The effect was an engaging sense of intimacy and spontaneity, as in a private house concert.' Sabine Kortals, Denver Post.