Cantus’ ‘All Is Calm’ will be broadcast

December 23, 2008.By Pioneer Press.

If you didn’t get a chance to hear the Minnesota-based male choir Cantus performing “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” at the Pantages Theater earlier this month, you can listen to the show in its entirety at 7 p.m. today on Minnesota Public Radio (99.5 FM). Excerpts from the show and interviews with its creators Peter Rothstein and Erick Lichte will be featured on “Performance Today,” which airs on more than 250 stations around the country at various times. It will air on MPR at 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve.

The moving musical is based on real stories from the first Christmas during World War I, when men from opposing forces laid down their arms on the battlefield in a spontaneous truce. “All Is Calm” is told in the words and songs of soldiers in the Allied Forces and the German army, who met in No Man’s Land between their trenches to celebrate Christmas. It uses quotes from 30 WWI figures and music ranging from patriotic tunes to holiday carols. On that winter night, enemy troops traded carols, food and drink, photo-graphs of loved ones, played soccer and buried each other’s dead.

Classical and theater } All Is Calm

December 21, 2008.By Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press.

Through today: The Minnesota-based male choir Cantus has been something of a word-of-mouth phenomenon as its fame has grown over the years. But the new CD “All Is Calm” could be what really launches the group to international acclaim. It has already garnered a glowing review from Classics Today. But that’s an audio version of what has been hailed as a deeply moving theatrical experience. Peter Rothstein’s musical tells the story of the Christmas truce of 1914, when German and Allied soldiers met on a European battlefield … and shared songs and stories. 1 and 6:30 p.m.; Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.; $35-$25; 651-989-5151.

All is right with 'All Is Calm'

December 20, 2008.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

The premiere of "All Is Calm" last Christmas season took place on a small stage in a church auditorium crammed with folding chairs. The intimacy heightened a poignant tale of enemies celebrating a one-day truce at Christmas, 1914, on fields rimed with blood and snow. So successful was the show that Theatre Latté Da and the vocal group Cantus moved into the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis this year.

While nothing matches the sweet charm of discovery, the show holds up extraordinarily well -- and in some respects is stronger. Cantus' harmonies sound wonderfully full, and director Peter Rothstein has added more staging. The actors no longer read from music stands, and they integrate with the singers in action. Stage fog and a lighting scheme by Marcus Dilliard capture shadow, glare and the frosty atmospherics of a starry night.

This richer dimension fills out the psychic space "All Is Calm" initially carved out in us. In this rare slice of history, Christmas is tangibly real in its effect on human hearts pitted in mean circumstances.

"All Is Calm" is a story of tragic heroes. Fresh, young men march off to war amid patriotic songs and pomp. Within months, their dream of returning in glory by Christmas lay trampled in the muck of freezing trench warfare. Actor John Catron recites the letter of one Brit who, upon seeing his chap slaughtered by shrapnel, determines never to befriend another soldier, lest he again feel such acute pain.

It is also a story of dreams. Imagine, says the young officer Winston Churchill, if soldiers went on strike and demanded a better way to solve disputes? A young soldier echoes the sentiment as he wonders, "Could it have happened? If we had decided to end the fighting, could we have stopped the war?"

Above all, though, Rothstein and Cantus (led by artistic director Erick Lichte) find the ineffable mystery of this story: German and Allied voices take on haunting resonance, singing "Stille Nacht" on a field normally thundering with artillery; a French opera tenor amazes comrades by spontaneously singing "O Holy Night"; the 23rd Psalm is solemnly recited in English and German as enemies honor their fallen; the sheer felicity of the moment is reflected in one soldier's observation that "we were laughing and chatting with men we were trying to shoot hours before."

These miracles are what make "All Is Calm" such a pure example of what was meant when angels first declared, "Peace on Earth."

12.19.08: All is Calm @ The Pantages Theater

December 20, 2008.By Tad Simons, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.

The way time marches on these days, it’s easy to forget that not long ago it was neither safe nor wise to venture south of Seventh St. on Hennepin Ave. downtown. Those who did quickly found themselves accosted by a small army of drunks and drifters, people who were either unable to afford or simply unwelcome in the sweaty assortment of bars and strip clubs that lined the avenue. It was a hellhole, in short–a miserable, godforsaken stretch of cityscape that deserved to die. And though I’m sure there are people who bemoan the lack of grit and grime in the area now, on Friday night it was difficult not to reflect on how far all those city council battles of yore have brought our humble, once-degenerate downtown.

The occasion for this reminiscence was a performance of All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914, at the Pantages Theater, itself a relic of a more innocent era when a certain amount of class and taste in public theaters was the norm. The Pantages isn’t as grand as the Orpheum or the State, but it has its own distinctive charm, and a show like All is Calm fits perfectly in its elegant space.

An invention of Theatre Latte Da mastermind Peter Rothstein, All is Calm tells the true story of one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of warfare, a night during the first year of World War I when German and British soldiers laid down their weapons and sang drinking songs and Christmas carols to each other until dawn, then played a spirited game of soccer and buried each other’s dead before getting back to the business of killing.

Originally developed last year as a radio play, the show was essentially a staged reading with hardly any stagecraft whatsoever. But it was so well received that this year it re-emerged as a more refined production, albeit one that utilizes only three wooden boxes and a little stage smoke to achieve its haunting, mesmerizing effects. That leaves only voices–of the remarkable nine-man choral ensemble Cantus, and three actors who guide the narrative by reciting verbatim from letters and journals of the soldiers who were there–to tell the story of what happened on that historic night.

The genius of this show lies in its restraint. The soldier/singers wear black coats and the entire stage is black and empty except for a small riser. Director Rothstein could have used bomb sound effects and flashes of light when the soldiers are relating their scenes of wartime, but he doesn’t–instead he lets the audience imagine what those bombs sounded like, a technique that pulls the audience into the action in a way that overt, literal depictions of action simply can’t.

But it’s the voices of the Cantus singers that make most of the magic in this show. Even when they’re singing moldy oldies like “Pack up Your Troubles” (in your old kit bag, and smile, smile . . .) or holiday staples like “O Tannenbaum” and “Good King Wencenslas,” the arrangements are sophisticated and the execution superb. Cantus’ version of “Silent Night” blends German and English lyrics with six-part harmonies to create an almost unbearably sad coda to the events of that night. In fact, the sound Cantus produced on Friday night was so undeniably sacred that, when the show ended, no one in the audience Friday night wanted to be the first to break the spell. We all sat in silence, wondering who would be the first to clap.

Afterward, my wife and I went for a late dinner at R. Normans steakhouse next door, where I ate a delectable bone-in prime rib and washed it down with a glass of J. Lohr Seven Oaks cabernet. All in all, it was an evening that could not have happened on Hennepin Avenue twenty years ago, but can today, largely because we are winning the war on urban decay on Hennepin Ave. Sure, there are still a few lurking insurgents who make it their mission to resist anything that smacks of decency and civilization downtown. But there are fewer of them now than there were, and that in itself if a triumph worth celebrating.

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 continues through Sunday, Dec. 21, at the Pantages Theater,

'All is Calm' celebrates peace ... in wartime

December 19, 2008.By Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

Too often, the cause of "peace" can seem insurmountably abstract. Like eliminating hunger or pollution, creating an environment free of conflict might be too impossible to imagine for most. Where would one begin?

Well, Peter Rothstein has created an excellent musical that looks back at history for a possible starting point. "All is Calm" collects quotes and writings from German and Allied soldiers who did something radical in 1914, leaving their trenches for an impromptu Christmas celebration together in "No Man's Land."

Around this time last year, Rothstein enlisted the ideal collaborators for his piece in Cantus, a nine-man male chorus that started life at Northfield's St. Olaf College. Now they've revived "All is Calm," which opened a six-performance run at Minneapolis' Pantages Theatre on Thursday night. And it's not only an outstanding piece of musical theater, but a brilliantly executed production that understands that its power comes from its simplicity.

Such basic elements as great singing and compelling stories are all that are needed to take you to the battle-scarred fields of Europe during World War I. Any other effects are only delicate enhancements, like swirling wisps of fog or a black backdrop periodically pierced by starlight. This is a case in which the actors, singers, songs and script are the lone mode of transport. They draw you into their world of rations and rats, camaraderie, conflict and the looming specter of death, with the harmoniesof Cantus acting as the essential unifying principle. And actors John Catron, David Roberts and Alan Sorenson create a rich, complex cast of characters with their verbal dispatches.

A Winston Churchill quote finds him ruminating upon what might happen if the soldiers on each side ever decided to reject the divisions imposed upon them by their superiors and choose to wage peace. With "All is Calm," we get a glimpse of what that utopian vision might look like ... and sound like. And it proves a moving experience that should stay with you long after the last notes fade.

Rob Hubbard is an associate producer for American Public Media's "Performance Today."

'All is Calm' delivers joy – pure and simple

December 19, 2008.By Ed Huyck, MinnPost.

Amid all the glittering lights, the endless yards of shiny packaging and the barrage of advertising for the perfect gift, it’s easy to miss the simple joy of Christmas.

The Cratchits knew it. Linus knew it. And the soldiers hunkered down in the trenches in 1914 knew it. Their amazing moment -- when enemy soldiers put down their arms and joined one another other in seasonal celebration -- makes up the framework of “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” a co-production of Theatre Latte Da, Cantus and the Hennepin Theatre Trust running through this weekend.

The simplicity isn’t just about the story, but also the understated staging that puts all of the focus on the words of everyday soldiers and the music they sang. The nine male voices in Cantus blend beautifully throughout, while the arrangements of Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach add emotional shades you would not have imagined lay within the songs. "Silent Night,” for example, turns almost into a dirge as the singers repeat the "all is calm” line, foreshadowing the return of a war that would drag on for nearly four more years.

Set against the simplest of stages -- a black backdrop that turns into a star field, a few risers and boxes -- the music and the remembrances (brought to life by a trio of actors) fill in the details of life in the trenches, and the moment when the soldiers took it onto themselves to treat the enemy as humans. Creator Peter Rothstein has crafted a piece that deserves to be a holiday tradition -- one with a message that should always be heard.

"All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914." Through Sunday (Dec. 21) at the Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis. Tickets: $25-$35; seating is limited. For tickets, call Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787, or go online at Ticketmaster or the Hennepin Theatre Trust.

"All Is Calm" sounds a moving choir of peace from the trenches of war

December 19, 2008.By Brad Richason, Examiner.

If the event weren't documented by so many first-hand accounts, the Christmas Truce of 1914 would be considered too far-fetched for belief. And yet, remarkably, it happened that in the midst of the horrific battles of World War I, along the dreaded no man's land between British and German trenches, enemy combatants laid down their weapons in a unified observation of Christmas. Under a grim atmosphere of carnage and death, longing for the comforts of home, soldiers from all nations joined together in song. Now playing at the Pantages Theatre as a co-presentation of Theatre Latte’ Da, the vocal ensemble Cantus, and Hennepin Theatre Trust, All Is Calm recreates the miraculous event in all its profoundly affecting poignancy.

Cantus sets the atmosphere by opening with a selection of Christmas carols. The warm timbre of their harmonious a capellas cast a mesmerizing spell that seamlessly carries over into the narrative. From the initial enthusiasm of departing troops, through the demoralizing warfare, to the reprieve offered by the truce, Cantus not only captures the emotions of the troops, but channels those feelings to the audience. From rousing rallying cries to lonesome laments, Cantus mines a depth of emotion that emphatically underscores the compassion at the core of this event.

Traditional songs are supplemented by the arrangements of Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, crafting a stirring musical tribute to the season. Perhaps most memorable is the moment when the truce first takes shape. A lone German soldier, exhibiting extraordinary courage, steps forth from his trench to give voice to Silent Night. When his solo is taken up by an inspired chorus of soldiers from rival nations, I'm quite certain I wasn’t the only one in the audience choked up by the heartfelt benevolence.

The production’s spoken narrative is provided by the soldiers themselves. Culled from first-hand accounts, including journals and letters, the dialogue presents the myriad perspectives of soldiers from every background. Some speak with an eloquent poetry while others bluntly express their sentiment, but each voice shares an authenticity that transcends time. Three actors - John Catron, David Roberts, and Alan Sorenson – speak for over two dozen persons, most of whom were directly involved in the miraculous truce. Dialogue is enacted through varied dialects and multinational vernaculars, bringing the story to life through a richly diverse tapestry of perspectives.

The fusing of dialogue and song is so powerfully captivating that the unavoidable breaking of the truce tears at the heart with tragic force. We feel as though something hopeful and wondrous has been crushed. For a fleeting moment we saw the better nature of our humanity arise before it was again buried beneath the barrage of artillery fire.

Nevertheless, the production shows that when enemies came face to face they found each other more alike than different. Each dreamed of a better life for their families. Each wanted to make their loved ones proud. Each was homesick and disheartened by the widespread death and destruction.

All Is Calm inspires with a view of human goodness that extends beyond nationality. In this holiday season, when we speak most highly of peace on Earth, All Is Calm provides the actual realization of those words. Instead of a seasonal slogan, All Is Calm shows a universal goodwill that could be a reality if only we have the courage to act in accordance with our shared humanity.

All Is Calm runs through 12/21/08.

Play Retells Little-Known Christmas Truce Of 1914

December 15, 2008.By Jeanette Trompeter, WCCO.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - There are all kinds of holiday musicals to choose from in the Twin Cities this time of year. They aim to lift our spirits and fill us with holiday cheer.

But there is one playing at the Pantages Theatre that's a little out of the ordinary. It was written by a Minnesota playwright and it's a touching, true story about Christmas of 1914, in the middle of a war zone.

Among the mementos and memorabilia spread across Peter Rothstein's kitchen table, is a history lesson. There are postcards, Christmas cards, pictures and letters home. There are also buttons from military uniforms, boxes sent to troops during World War I from Princess Mary.

And in the things he gathered on his travels to Europe, and from relatives of World War I soldiers, he found a touching story of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

"The story starts actually with recruiting men to go to war, which was pivotal to the story," Rothstein points out. "Because all the men were promised that they would be home for Christmas."

Instead, the soldiers found themselves living in trenches along a battle zone known as no-man's land.

"The trenches were so close that you could hear a guy coughing. You know you could hear your enemy cough across no man's land. They were just 30 to 40 yards apart in some places," explained Rothstein.

And on this unlikely stage of a war zone, a story of peace on Earth was played out between the tens of thousands of German and Allied Forces. Rothstein tells it in the musical "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914".

"I really can't even call myself the writer because 90 percent of it is found text," he said.

In the soldiers own words, we hear more camaraderie than most history books reflect, and the common language was music.

"As they began to sing songs from one trench to another, and calling for encores, and they would do this musical round robin," said Rothstein.

As the story goes, the war went longer than soldiers anticipated. Feeling lied to, they felt more in common with their enemy come Christmas time, than they did with their commanding officers. So a holiday truce began.

"They think there was seven locations along the front where men stopped fighting, and some of them lasted a couple of hours. But some them actually lasted up until New Years Day," said Rothstein.

"Here we were laughing and chatting to men that only a few hours before we were trying to kill," sings one of the actors in the musical during a recent rehearsal.

There is little documentation of the Christmas Truce, because it was breaking the rules. The war went on for another four years, and many who took part didn't survive the war to tell the story.

"They actually shifted the rotation and put new men to the front lines, just trying to get the war back on track," said Rothstein. "The Allied Forces issued a decree there would be no further fraternization, and if anyone was caught fraternizing with the enemy, they should be lined up and shot. And the Brits did actually execute some of their own throughout World War I."

Now the story is being told, thanks to Rothstein.

"I think what they did that Christmas of 1914 was heroic. And I hope this play gives them a little place in history that they deserve," he said.

What makes a classic?

December 15, 2008.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

Tyrone Guthrie might have dismissed this critic’s opinion last December that after a single performance, “All Is Calm” was “likely to become a classic.” Guthrie famously argued that new work required at least 50 years simmering in the theatrical stew pot before it could be considered a classic.

Had the critic committed the baby boomer crime of declaring every new thing that happens along “The Greatest Ever”?

Or did he see something transcendent in “All Is Calm,” a poignant ode to Allied and German soldiers who dared to declare peace at Christmastide 1914? After all, even Sir Tony allowed that “Death of a Salesman,” a stripling just 14 years old, has “potential classic status” when he produced it at his new theater in 1963.

Perhaps time itself is not the sole arbiter of a classic. For example, “All Is Calm” – a theatrical concert – feeds our need for heroes, gives space to out dreams of human nobility, allows us to approach the enigma of Christmas and puzzle over the miracle that stopped enemies from killing each other for one day.

Other consistent themes unite classics. “A Christmas Carol” reminds us that if Scrooge – withered and bitter – can be redeemed, we too can transform our lives. In “The Wizard of Oz,” a young girl’s self-discovery is also a fantastic journey. The centuries-old Greek hubris of “Oedipus” still speaks to us, as does noble martyrdom in “A Tale of Two Cities” or “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Handel’s “Messiah” proclaims hope, and “Guernica” screams against inhumanity.

These enduring works of art are paradoxes, constantly evolving yet never changing. They reveal themselves in metaphoric layers – much like Peer Gynt peeling the onion until he is left with nothing. “Every classic has some element of mystery in it,” said Charles Baxter, a writer and professor of literature at the University of Minnesota. “Gertrude Stein observes that we go back to ‘Hamlet’ not because of what we all understand about the play but because of what we don’t understand.”

I think I’ll write a classic

Peter Rothstein, Theater Latté Da’s artistic director, never intended to write a classic when he approached the story behind “All Is Calm.” As former theater critic Dan Sullivan points out, “Classics are not invented; they are discovered. It’s as if they have always been there.”

Provoked by the story, Rothstein began investigating why it moved him.

Start with the awesome mystery of war, which has fed classics since “The Iliad” and “The Persians.”

Rothstein recognized that art sometimes works best when it has identifiable heroes.

“There is that hero in classics who the audience gets to align themselves with,” he said.  “What is most intimate is most epic, where we can get inside the mind and heart of a human being.”

Consider the World War I foot soldier. By December 1914, he stood in muddy slop up to his knees. He stared out from his trench, through coils of barbed wire, across frozen fields littered with mates and into the eyes of men similarly mired. Where was the pomp and pageantry of conquest, the promises of leaders, the glory of national pride?

Some of these soldiers came to feel more kinship with each other than they did with their distant officers. They were worn to their spiritual nubs and wondering how in God’s name they had gotten there. There is a universal quest for meaning, particularly when we feel desperate.

“In so many of those classic stories, people start out with all the cards stacked against them,” said Elissa Adams, director of new-play development at Children’s Theatre Company. “Then the qualities we tend to honor – bravery, courage, honesty, love, faith – transform those circumstances.”

Allied and German soldiers showed courage and bravery not to shoot each other that Christmas. They defied the superiors and reached out for what was noble and faithful in the human spirit. So contrary to war’s intentions were their actions that day we marvel in awe.

The truce of 1914 lasted only Christmas Day, a whiff of goodwill blown away on the winds of war, and nothing in mythology is sweeter or sadder than beauty lost.

Rothstein created authenticity by using the soldiers’ own words, from letters, poems and journal entries. The a cappella group Cantus, directed by Erich Lichte, then wrapped the story with song, an element that cannot be understated. (“Music goes deeper than any words,” Osmo Vänskä said in an interview last year.)

“Standing in the lobby after the premiere last year, the most frequent comment I heard was, ‘You have to do this again next year; you have to do this every year,’” Rothstein said. “There are hits that are huge commercial successes but no one would regard them as classics. I think a classic has to feel important enough that people invest in making it part of the canon.”

Beyond the holidays

The holidays have provided a natural bleeding ground for what might be called modern classics in literature, theater, film and TV. Next time the spiked eggnog has loosened tongues, ask around: Is the Claymation “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” a classic? Mr. Magoo’s deft turn in “A Christmas Carol”? Do Jean Shepherd’s “A Christmas Story” or O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” pass muster? How about “Miracle on 34th Street”? You’’ find out in a hurry who was already drinking at home before the party.

Then there is “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” which has appeared in book, TV, film, and onstage. Doesn’t that four-for-four performance rate a spot next to Scrooge?

“It’s not for me,” said CTC’s Adams. “Even if it says something worth returning to, it doesn’t feel like it transcends its Christmas story-ness.”

No, for a classic to take root, it requires more than a single villain flinging gifts at the daffy denizens of Whoville. “King Lear” is driven nearly insane in his quest for legacy – his immortality. “Oedipus” sparks in us the mystery o whether lives are destined, or created. Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean confronts his own shortcomings and emerges redeemed for good, only to be chased by overweening evil in the form of justice.

“There’s something eternal, unvariable, a touchstone common to all eras,” said Gary Gisselman, who directs “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie and teaches at St. Olaf College. “There’s something terrific about making connections about how your life is, how your country is, and how life was in the sixth or seventh century B.C.”

Family and taboos

Gisselman expands the playing field. The family is a rich role lode of dramatic material that has taken on classic dimensions. Think of Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill. Will Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County” join that pantheon? Time will tell. In “Antigone,” Sophocles dramatically united both the intensity of family allegiances and the war between state and individual. Then there is our fascination with taboos, which makes for timeless art. In Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge,” a man lusts for his niece – a page right out of the Greeks.

“What is it that makes that so compelling and at once disturbing?” Gisselman asks. “It’s a great puzzle to us.”

Sullivan used a lighter reference – Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.” Couples being naughty appeals to a daring instinct in us, Sullivan said.

“A lot of farce is that way,” he said. “It’s about breaking the rules without getting caught, and we delight in it.”

The beauty of Coward’s play is its time and place. It is as specific as “All Is Calm,” and specifically is crucial to the universality of the classics, said Charles Nolte, who spent more than 60 years in the theater as actor, director, playwright and educator.

“You get a play that mirrors life accurately, no matter what period it’s written in, and you have the definition of a classic,” he said.

The buzz continues for ‘All is Calm’

December 15, 2008.By Camille LeFevre, MinnPost.

Peter Rothstein's "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" is on my must-see list this year. Last year, the original work of musical theater was the talk of the Twin Cities, impressing critics and audiences alike. It sold out with 3,000 people attending performances at three churches in the area.

This year, the work will be staged primarily in Hennepin Theatre Trust's Pantages venue.

Rothstein's Theatre Latté Da and the a cappella men's group Cantus perform the work.

Even if you can't get tickets this year, you'll be able to hear it on public radio. When I spoke with Rothstein about a week ago, the shows were 50 percent sold out.

"I wrote the show as a radio musical drama, knowing it would have a life on MPR," says Rothstein. The group's Friday, Dec. 19 show, at 10:30 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian in Minneapolis, will be broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. American Public Media is also broadcasting the show in December.

In the last month, the show has been touring California, Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Iowa; a 2009 tour is almost completely booked.

"I didn't want to premiere it in a traditional theater because I didn't want folks expecting a traditional musical, with lots of scenery, costumes and staging," Rothstein says. "We discovered the piece works beautifully in this 'concert' form, which is how we are touring it.

"But I've grown increasing interested in seeing how it could live in a more theatrical space," Rothstein says.

So he approached the Hennepin Theatre Trust about putting the show in the Pantages.

"The Pantages will have more of a visual world than the piece has had up to this point, a few simple gestures with costumes, lighting and movement. I think it's a perfect hall for the piece; we knew we needed a larger venue, but the Pantages is still a very intimate space."

Want to know more about the genesis of "All is Calm"? Check out MinnPost's in-depth story from 2007.

"All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914." Dec. 18-21. Pantages Theater, 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. $22.50-$32.50. Online.

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

December 4, 2008.By John Townsend, Lavender Magazine.

Dec. 18-21 Pantages Theatre 710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls. (612) 673-0404

If you caught the magnificent Joyeux Noel, which should have won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2006, you know about the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War I, when soldiers of the opposing Triple Entente and Central Powers broke ranks and celebrated. All that softening of male pride, ego, nationalism, and fear was staggeringly brave. Theatre Latte Da and the Cantus singers commemorate that spontaneous laying down of arms. Created by musical theater director Peter Rothstein, this piece is ideal for getting into true Christmas spirit.

Rothstein’s Christmas Truce

December 2008.By Camille LeFevre, Twin Cities Business Magazine.

When Peter Rothstein’s All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 premiered last year, critics predicted that this original work of musical theater would become a classic. It already has. Performed by Rothstein’s Theater Latté Da and the a cappella men’s group Cantus, All is Calm is based on a true story about how peace trumped war on the Western Front in 1914. December 18-21, times vary, $25-$35, Pantages Theatre, Minneapolis, 612-673-0404,

Cantus and Theater Latte Da All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

2008.By Carol Swanson, Christmas Reviews.

Wow. This is a rare and wonderful treat. Cantus is a fabulous a cappella male ensemble; I reviewed their superb holiday albums in 2005: Comfort and Joy: Volume One and Comfort and Joy: Volume Two. This release, however, is something entirely different. You may well be familiar with the true story of how the Germans and the English stepped from their WWI trenches at Christmastime in 1914 to celebrate camaraderie, music, and peace before returning to the cruel realities of war. All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is the original cast recording of a radio musical drama base on this fascinating historical moment. A collaboration between Cantus and Theater Latte Da, the presentation combines music common to England and Germany, and textual narratives taken from many sources, including war documents, letters, journals, and even a grave stone inscription. The music naturally incorporates Christmas pieces, but also reflects trench songs, patriotic numbers, and sentimental tunes of the era.

This, then, is a dramatic presentation, and you can enjoy the full force of the radio broadcast through the All Is Calm CD. It is not your average holiday release, that’s for certain. From the perspectives of dramatic execution and musical performance, this is moving unique Christmas entertainment unlike anything else you might encounter. Cantus, of course, provides magnificent a cappella choral support, and the actors deliver memorable readings that will transport you to the WWI trenches, making you witness to the remarkable piece that broke out among enemies. The overall package is a rarity in holiday offerings—and one that delivers a powerful message wrapped in a history lesson.

Of course, given the unusual nature of All Is Calm, the CD has limited replay value, and you cannot really use it effectively as background music for your holiday events. On the other hand, you probably already have tons of “regular” Christmas CDs for such affairs; I can guarantee that you do NOT already have anything like All Is Calm in your holiday collection!

Finally, the three “Bonus Tracks” are stupendous additions to the recording. The six-minute version of Silent Night is among the most moving that I have ever heard, and Auld Lang Syne, a throwaway number on most albums, is fully developed and breathtaking here. Get out your hankies!

Simply amazing. Looking for something special to surprise and entertain your family this holiday season? Look no further. The collaboration between Cantus and Theater Latte Da has created the perfect holiday gift: All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914. Enough said!


December 2008.By Minnesota Monthly.

ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 Presented by Theater Latté Da and vocal ensemble Cantus, this play re-creates the remarkable Christmas truce between the British and the Germans during World War I. A story of wartime camaraderie, All Is Calm shares the thoughts of men serving on the Western Front by way of European carols and war songs. Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-673-0404.

On the Front

December 2008.By Twin Cities Magazine.

The true story of wartime holiday miracle comes to life in All is Calm—The Christmas Truce of 1914. Between shots comes a song, pausing a war and bringing soldiers together. Re-live the moment through the words and songs from the men who lived it. Get there early to carol with performers before each performance (Dec. 18-21). Pantages Theatre. 710 Hennepin Avenue. Minneapolis. 651-989-5151,

Cantus: Nine Guys = A Perfect Ten

November 17, 2008.By John Birge, Minnesota Public Radio.

Congrats to the our good friends , the Twin Cities' men's vocal ensemble, for getting a perfect review of their new Christmas CD, "All is Calm." The CD tells the story of the famous WWI Christmas Truce of 1914. Critic David Vernier writes:

With first-rate new musical arrangements by Cantus members Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach, and with dramatic recitations by members of Minneapolis-based Theater Latté Da, whose artistic director Peter Rothstein conceived the project, the program artfully leads, from the point of view of the soldiers, from a Prologue (a beautiful rendition of the song "Will Ye Go to Flanders?") through various stages of the men's experience at the beginning of war--"Optimistic Departure"--to the "Grim Reality" of battle, cold, hunger, and death, and then to the events of the Christmas truce itself....As you will expect if you've ever heard a Cantus performance, the singing is absolutely top-notch, and the spoken parts...are equally eloquent and moving, and are perfectly juxtaposed with and often simultaneously performed with the music.

You can read the entire review here.

Classical Minnesota Public Radio broadcast the first performances of this show last year, and we're pleased to bring it back to the radio again for Christmas 2008, on December 23 at 7pm. Cantus performs this show live at the Pantages in Mpls, Dec 18-21. Classical Minnesota Public Radio will give you a special discount on tickets too.

ALL IS CALM—The Christmas Truce of 1914

November 14, 2008.By David Vernier, Classics Today.

If you’re looking for a truly unique and engaging Christmas/holiday recording, you shouldn’t miss this new release from the 9-member professional male vocal ensemble Cantus. Billed as a “radio musical drama”, All is Calm presents songs, poetry, letters, and journal excerpts relating to the extraordinary World War I incident known as “the Christmas Truce”, in which on Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers from the trenches on both sides of the front lines in Belgium spontaneously initiated a cease-fire like no other, a celebration not only of Christmas–carols were sung back and forth, trees were lit with candles, food and drink was passed around, pictures were taken, a game of soccer was played–but also of the basic humanity all of these men shared, as they helped each other bury the dead that for days had lain unattended across no man’s land.

With first-rate new musical arrangements by Cantus members Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach, and with dramatic recitations by members of Minneapolis-based Theater Latté Da, whose artistic director Peter Rothstein conceived the project, the program artfully leads, from the point of view of the soldiers, from a Prologue (a beautiful rendition of the song “Will Ye Go to Flanders?”) through various stages of the men’s experience at the beginning of war–”Optimistic Departure”–to the “Grim Reality” of battle, cold, hunger, and death, and then to the events of the Christmas truce itself. The disc closes with a “Return to Battle” and an Epilogue.

The story is told with lots of music–contemporary popular songs such as “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “The Old Barbed Wire”, “Keep the home fires burning”, as well as Christmas carols and songs “O Tannenbaum”, “Good King Wenceslas”, “In dulci jubilo”, “O come, o come Emmanuel”, “Minuit chrétiens” (O holy night), and “Silent Night”. As you will expect if you’ve ever heard a Cantus performance, the singing is absolutely top-notch, and the spoken parts–including words written both by “ordinary” and well-known soldiers (namely Wilfred Owen and Siefgried Sassoon)–are equally eloquent and moving, and are perfectly juxtaposed with and often simultaneously performed with the music. This is a production intended to be experienced in its entirety (although the CD is divided into separate tracks), and indeed these performers are presenting it in concerts this season in Minneapolis (check the Cantus website for information).

Although the remarkable events of the Christmas Truce (in some places it lasted until New Year’s!) were not widely reported at the time (bad for the business of war) nor for decades after, they have recently inspired a film, Joyeux Noël, and several books, including Silent Night by Stanley Weintraub. This excellent “radio musical drama” promises to extend its fame to a greater audience, involving listeners with its engaging music and affecting prose and poetry, while leaving us to ponder the incident’s underlying, poignantly provocative question: what would happen if those sent to fight each other instead laid down their arms, crossed the lines, shook hands, shared a beer, a meal, photographs of their families, and sang a few songs together?


November 9, 2008.By Graydon Royce, Star  Tribune.

Dec. 18-21: Theater Latté Da and Cantus brought this historical curiosity to life last year in a beautiful little production. On Christmas 1914 during World War I, Allied and German soldiers set aside the war and frolicked in the no-man’s land between their trenches. Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein plumbed diaries and documents for authentic readings and Erich Lichte put carols and patriotic songs into the mouths of his Cantus singers. The result is a rich and moving mixture of text and music. The piece will tour the Midwest before landing in Minneapolis for six performances. (7:30 p.m. Dec. 18-19, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Dec 20, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Dec. 21. $25-$35. Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-673-0404, or State Theatre box office, 805 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.)

All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914

2008.By Hennepin Theatre Trust.

Dec. 18-21, 2008. Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theatre—A collaboration among Hennepin Theatre Trust, Theater Latté Da and Cantus Tickets: $25-35 A theatrical concert and musical radio drama created by playwright/director Peter Rothstein from Theater Latté Da and featuring three local actors and the singers of Cantus, one of America’s finest professional male vocal ensembles, All is Calm is based on real stories from an extraordinary time around Dec. 24 during World War I when men from opposing forces on the Western front lay down their arms in a spontaneous truce. Local actors Alan Sorenson, John Catron and David Roberts portray more than 30 characters and singers from Cantus provide the a cappella voices that rang out along the 80 mile front. The minimally staged dramatic re-telling contains quotes from World War I figures and music ranging from patriotic tunes and trench songs to medieval Scottish ballads and holiday carols from England, Wales, France and Germany.


2008.By Cantus.


Cantus and Theater Latté Da present the world premiere recording of All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach. Through new arrangements of European carols and war-songs, All Is Calm recalls the remarkable World War I truce between Allied Forces and German soldiers in No Man’s Land on Christmas, 1914.

All Is Calm writer and director Peter Rothstein states, “The work is best described as a radio musical drama with the nine singers of Cantus and three actors. I’ve been able to tell the story using primarily found text that I’ve pulled from a wide range of sources: official war documents, autobiographies, World War One poets, letters, journals, grave stone inscriptions, even old radio broadcasts.”

“For decades many considered the Christmas truce a romantic fable, a gross exaggeration, but the number of first-hand accounts is staggering. I wanted to represent as many of those voices as possible.” The hour-long work contains quotes from 30 different Great War figures and 25 songs. The music is everything from trench songs and patriotic tunes to medieval Scottish ballads, as well as Christmas music from England, Wales, France and Germany.

“Cantus always tries to put its music into a bigger emotional context,” says Cantus Artistic Director Erick Lichte. “All Is Calm allows us to sing Christmas carols everyone knows and loves but, set in the context of war, they take on new importance and meaning. For instance, “Silent Night” is sung with the hope that the fighting will stop long enough so that the singing soldier who has stepped into No Man’s Land isn’t shot. To me, the whole show speaks to the real but fleeting possibility of peace on Earth and goodwill toward all that is the heart of the Christmas message.”

All Is Calm will be touring nationally from November through December 2008 and will be broadcast worldwide this Christmas through American Public Media and the European Broadcasting Union (check local listings for broadcast time on local public radio stations.) All Is Calm will be released on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008. CD’s are currently available at, and will be available at as well as iTunes.

All Is Calm will also be performed locally at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis Dec. 18-21, 2008 in collaboration with Hennepin Theatre Trust. Tickets are on sale now for $25 and $35 depending on seating preference. Additional fees may apply. Tickets may be purchased in person at the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, 55402), online at, or through Ticketmaster by calling 612-673-0404 or visiting Ticketmaster Ticket Center. Groups of 10 or more can save 10% and should call 612-373-5665 for information and reservations.

Performance dates and location for All Is Calm are Thursday, Dec. 18 through Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008 at the Pantages, 710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 55403. Show times are Thursday, Dec. 18 and Friday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20 at 2 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 21 at 1 and 6:30 p.m.


REVIEWS OF ALL IS CALM: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914 “a classic to be repeated for years to come.” Minneapolis Star Tribune

“a dramatic, real-life musing about the power this season has to make us stop, reflect, and decide to operate in a mode of peace.” Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine

“a work of beauty” Saint Paul Pioneer Press

ABOUT CANTUS Recognized as one of America’s finest professional male vocal ensembles, Cantus enjoys a vigorous schedule of national tours, subscription concerts in its home of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, educational outreach programs, and recording. The Washington Post hails the ensemble’s sound as having both “exalting finesse” and expressive power,” and refers to their music-making as “spontaneous grace.” The ensemble, co-founded by Artistic Director Erick Lichter, is known for adventurous programming spanning many periods and genres, including chant, Renaissance music, contemporary works, art song, folk, spirituals, world music, and pop.

Cantus’ 2008-09 season includes a collaboration with Bobby McFerrin presented by the Minnesota Orchestra, and the creation of a new work by Mary Ellen Childs with the James Sewell Ballet. 2007-08 highlights included an extended tour with the Boston Pops for the holiday season, a sold-out debut at the Kennedy Center, and an acclaimed premiere of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. In the fall of 2007, the group made its African debut performing with Cameroonian choirs for joint concerts and workshops throughout southwest Cameroon, culminating in an outdoor stadium concert.

Cantus has toured throughout Canada and Europe. In the United States, the group has sung to great acclaim at many nationally recognized festivals and venues, including Library of Congress, Merkin Hall, San Francisco Performances, Oregon Bach Festival, and Spivey Hall, to name a few. Cantus has appeared as a special guest with the Minnesota Orchestra, and has a long-standing performing relationship with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Their numerous recordings have garnered critical acclaim from Stereophile, Gramophone, Classics Today, and National Public Radio. The ensemble’s eponymous 2007 recording Cantus was named one of NPR’s 10 best for 2007. Frequently heard on public radio stations nationwide, Cantus is regularly featured on American Public Media’s Performance Today.

ABOUT THEATER LATTÉ DA Theater Latté Da seeks to create new connections between story, music, artist and audience by exploring and expanding the art of musical theater. Under the artistic directorship of Peter Rothstein and Denise Prosek, Theater Latté Da has earned a unique place in the Twin Cities arts scene, creating a new voice for musical theater that respects, challenges, and unites its audience. Theater Latté Da boasts an impressive history, including numerous area and world premieres as well as radical rethinkings of existing work, to significant critical and popular acclaim. Theater Latté Da holds itself to the highest standards of artistry while remaining committed to taking risks and pushing the boundaries of musical storytelling.