Founded in 1999 in Germany, the a cappella quintet Calmus is based in Leipzig. The group is known to both audiences and critics with having a "charming stage presence, flawless technique and entertaining presentation." They'll perform Tuesday, January 31st at Purdue for Convos with a Shakespeare program in St Thomas Aquinas Church at 7:30pm.
Music Director John Clare had a chance to ask the group a few questions before their tour started:
1. When you return to a town, does it make a difference? Are there favorites? (Do you look for local food/drink?)
When we’re travelling around the world we always have to deal with the “unknown”. We have uncountable new experiences, we meet new people, and we get a lot of new impressions. This is fantastic and we love it – as long as all experiences are positive…
And local food and drinks are always welcome!
So – a return to a nice place is a fantastic thing, too: We know the place already; we remember that we had a nice time during our last stay. And Purdue was clearly wonderful! Our first visit was more than six years ago – on one of our first US concert tours, we had a big audience and the resonance was great.
2. How did you come up with your Shakespeare program? (Isn’t odd that musicians – and theatres – celebrate the death of composers/playwrights?)
We don’t celebrate the death of Shakespeare; we just take the 400th anniversary as an opportunity to have a spotlight and to create a concert program. And now – in 2017 – we don’t have an anniversary, but Shakespeare is an interesting figure every year!
We did a big research on music that was written on Shakespeare’s words. And this was not so easy – all the theater plays are material for big opera… and there are only five of us. But there are interesting excerpts of the Tragedies and Comedies that had inspired composers to write songs on it. And there are the sonnets. We found a huge number of wonderful vocal pieces – sometimes we sing the same poem in different compositions. And we found really convincing contemporary compositions on Shakespeare’s poems.
3. There’s such a great tradition of chamber singing groups (from Comedian Harmonists to the King’s Singers) – who are your idols/role models? Did you ever think you’d make a living singing (in a chamber group)?
A dream has become true when it turned out that we can make our living with Calmus. We’re proud of that. We started in 1999 when we all had been students at the conservatory in Leipzig, and the number of concerts grew from year to year. So we decided to try it as a “main job”. And it works now for so many years! And of course we had idols – we listened VERY carefully to the recordings of other groups like the King’s Singers, Chanticleer, The Real Group, The Hilliard Ensemble, The Comedian Harmonists and others. But we always wanted to create our own sound and our own way of interpreting vocal music.
4. How is it to tour different programs? Has technology changed the way you rehearse or prepare the programs (iPads to see a score; record video with a cell/camera to hear ensemble)?
Singing different programs is important. Otherwise everything would get boring soon! We’re enjoying what we do this year, but at the same time we’re planning new programs, we’re looking for new interesting vocal music or we make projects with other musicians.
The internet makes many things easier: we can use web space for our music, recordings, pictures and files, we can be active on facebook and twitter. Research is much easier, youtube provides a lot of music (on different performance levels!!) and so on. Technology helps a lot and makes everything faster. But in the concerts we still use paper-scores.
5. How do you decide to record a release? (So many formats today!)
We’re planning CD projects with our label in Germany. We know what we want to do, the label knows the market – and when we put this together, we have a good chance for a successful product in different formats: as a CD, a download, on iTunes and other formats.
Bonus question – any favorite musicians/ensembles to collaborate with? (could be in the past or future projects)
Some years ago we performed together with a Big Band – this was doubtless a wonderful project. Last Christmas we made some concerts together with Symphony orchestra. Wonderful arrangements had been written therefore. We also enjoy working with small instrumental groups.
A cappella is our main business, but collaborations with other musicians are enriching our horizon and giving us impulses to remain open minded. And this seems important for us!