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Plenty of Lutherans help make Kantorei harmonious

Musical group began as Roman Catholic ensemble

When the Kantorei vocal ensemble was organized in 1988, its membership consisted entirely of graduates of St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, both Roman Catholic colleges near St. Cloud, Minnesota. Things have changed since then.
Though several singers are from the original group, Kantorei is now quite ecumenical. About half the musicians are from other denominations, including several Lutherans. Dr. Axel Theimer, the group’s artistic director and founder, is joined by Sue Zemlin, a Lutheran, as assistant conductor.
In addition, some of the group’s performances of sacred and secular music are now presented in Lutheran churches. The selection of venues acknowledges a strong appreciation of choral music by Lutherans.
Among the group’s current singers are two St. Olaf College graduates who now attend Luther Seminary; the treasurer of Augsburg For-tress, the publishing arm of the ELCA; a Presbyterian pastor, attorneys, a doctor and a chef. The chef will find himself busy in the kitchen for the group’s annual patron dinner (scheduled for February 13 next year). Support for the group also comes from grants, contributions from interested people and admission proceeds from concerts.
Theimer is Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, a joint position for St. John’s and St. Benedict, and has been in Minnesota 35 years. A native of Austria, he was a member of the Vienna Boys Choir (1955-1960). His particular interests are in 19th and 20th century music as well as new European composers. His goal for the choral ensemble is what he calls “a unified sound.” He explains: “We arrive at this [goal] in many ways. [The sound] should be as natural as possible. Sometimes we over-control to get the en-semble sound we want.”
Zemlin adds, “People in our audiences also receive our communication naturally.” Says Theimer, “We communicate efficiently and naturally.”
Theimer is Executive Director of a group called The Voice Care Network which “recognizes your voice as part of your whole being.”
Zemlin says her interest in voice care stemmed from an injury to her voice some years back. She joined Kantorei as a singer and has been assistant conductor for nine years. Zemlin attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A music teacher at Blaine High School, she is intensely interested in “healthy singing.”
In its first performances of the new season, Kantorei will present “Bohemian Rhapsody — Choral Music from Bohemia and Surrounding Lands,” October 22, 7:30 p.m., at First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights; October 23, 7:30 p.m., at the Church of the Nativity in St. Paul; and October 24, 4 p.m., at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
This year marks 100 years since the death of Antonin Dvorak, the best-known composer from the region once known as Bohemia. The region is dear to the heart of Theimer, whose parents lived near Prague before moving to Austria at the end of World War II.
The group’s annual Christmas concert is titled “Celebrating the Mystery: Music of Advent and Christmas.” It will be presented December 17, 8 p.m., at the Church of the Incarnation in Minneapolis and December 19, 3 p.m., at the St. Paul Seminary Chapel — University of St. Thomas. Traditional holiday music from Theimer’s Austrian heritage will be featured.
A third series of performances for the season is titled “Cathedrals to Mountains — Choral Music of the Alps.” It is scheduled for April 29, 2005, 7:30 p.m. Hennepin Ave-UMC in Minne-apolis and May 1, 3 p.m., at Wayzata Com-munity Church in Wayzata.
Kantorei rehearses Sun-day evenings from 6:45 to 9:15 at St. Paul Episcopal Church on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. Visitors are welcome, just for listening or to determine their interest in auditioning for the group.
More information about Kantorei is available at the web site: E-mail may be sent to info@kantorei. net. Zemlin can be reached at 763-767-9626 or 763-506-6791.