The 2022-23 season of the Harker Concert Series closed with one of the most unique performances in its history on Friday night, as the Twin Cities, Minn.-based Cantus delivered a diverse and creatively arranged collection of songs based on the theme of “Alone Together Again.” The evening’s collection of songs reflected the thoughts and feelings the group had gathered during their time performing to empty theaters (with online audiences) during the COVID-19 pandemic, often projecting airs of both loneliness and togetherness.
Concert opener “Deep Blue,” by Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire, was a suitably dour arrangement, its dark harmonies carrying lyrics that matched many a mood in the spring of 2020: “We watched the end of the century / Compressed on a tiny screen / A dead star collapsing and we could see / That something was ending.”
“Deep Blue” closed with words imploring listeners to “put the cellphone down for a while,” which provided the perfect segue into Ingrid Michaelson’s “Twitter Song,” a light-hearted lampoon of the social media platform’s excruciatingly fast-paced and nuance-free user experience, the singers transfixed by their smartphones.
Things got much brighter later in the set, notably after the intermission, when the group launched into Ysaye Barnwell’s “Tango with God,” throwing in some very light percussion to further sell the mood. Their heartfelt rendition of Jean Sibelius’ famous tone poem “Finlandia,” with lyrics by Lloyd Stone, also fit neatly into the evening’s more hopeful fare, it being the performance that earned them viral fame in the summer of 2020.
Spirits were further lifted toward the end of the show as the singers performed the Limeliters’ folk jaunt “There’s a Meeting Here Tonight,” no doubt referencing the country’s slow but sure reintegration to in-person life. With the sunlight streaming in during “Yonder Come Day,” their show closer, it at least felt as though the world they envisioned could be realized. All the more reason to make John Lennon’s “Imagine” their encore.