'All is Calm' reminds us peace has power to prevail over war
Sometimes, the most effective means of telling a story is to keep it as simple as possible. No emphasis or underlining, just relaying an experience and letting listeners draw their own lessons from it.

Ah, but music can make those simple stories all the more powerful. It can transport you to another place and immerse you in the emotional tenor of a tale. With "All is Calm," playwright Peter Rothstein, three actors and the male chorus, Cantus, use music as a means of understanding an astounding event that happened 95 years ago next week.

The production chronicles a cease-fire in the fighting of World War I that became something extraordinary, a holiday gathering on the battlefield at which German and Allied soldiers exchanged gifts, songs and stories, buried their dead together and briefly acknowledged the humanity of their enemy, the commonality of their experience. "All is Calm" is a tremendously moving work that pulls hope from a hopeless situation, its words directly from the mouths and pens of the participants, its music able to bring both warmth and chills.

Cantus opens the evening with a collection of carols that English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams created for soldiers to sing during World War I, but the songs that stay with you longest feature the homegrown arrangements of Cantus' Erick Lichte and Timothy Takach. Their artistry is most powerful when the tunes' contrasts are at their most extreme, as when some bawdy English party songs are interrupted
by German soldiers singing "O Tannenbaum."

Any evocations of warfare and life in the trenches come only from the descriptions offered by actors John Catron, David Roberts and Alan Sorenson, who each take on multiple characters over the course of the show's 65 minutes. Effects are limited to occasional fog, falling snow and glistening stars, subtle enhancements that never distract from the simple, understated power of this excellent production.

Rob Hubbard, St. Paul Pioneer Press
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