Missa Scala Aretina


Francisco Valls – Missa Scala Aretina

G F Handel – Let They Hand Be Strengthened

G F Handel – The King Shall Rejoice

Have you heard of the composer Francisco Valls, born 1672 in Barcelona?  Alongside two favourite pieces by Handel, Cantores will be performing Valls’ most famous work, Missa Scala Aretina, in their next two concerts.  Although this work was performed many times in Valls’ lifetime, it was only rediscovered in 1978 and had its first modern performance in London that year.

It is a huge work, scored for three separate choirs, violins, cornetti* and continuo and we are lucky enough to have two excellent cornett players coming to play for us along with our favourite string players.

The concerts will be on 21 November at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Northleach, at 7.30pm and on 28 November at St Mary’s Church Prestbury, near Cheltenham starting at 7.00pm (note time!)

Tickets £15 on the door, £12 in advance & children free, from Lorna telephone 01242 603988.

*Cornetti are not ice-creams or an Italian version of croissants, but early wind instruments popular from 1500-1650, a curved wooden instrument with a trumpet-like mouthpiece ……. so do come along and hear what a marvellous sound they make.

Dates for your diaries….

Please click on the links below to buy tickets for our next concert which includes Francisco Valls’ Missa Scala Aretina and two of G F Handel’s Coronation Anthems Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened and The King Shall Rejoice.

21st November 2015 – Church of St Peter & St Paul, Northleach at 7.30pm
28th November 2015 – St Mary’s Church, Prestbury, Cheltenham at 7.00pm

Please save the dates for our concerts coming up in 2016:

12th March 2016 – Cricklade
19th March 2016 – Cirencester
9th July 2016 – Cirencester
16th July 2016 – Cheltenham

East Meets West

East Meets West

East Meets West – Sacred Music across continents

Our next concert will take place in Northleach Parish Church on Saturday 20 June 2015 at 7.30pm and again in Holy Innocents Church, Highnam on Saturday 27 June at 7.30pm.

The concert will be conducted by John Holloway with David Whitehead on the organ and will include:

Rachmaninoff – Come Let Us Worship
Rachmaninoff – Balzhen Muzh
Gretchaninoff – Gladsome Light
Gretchaninoff – Now the Powers of Heaven
Kedrov – Otche Nash
Chesnokov – The Angel Cried Out
Kalinnikov – Gladsome Light

Holst – Nunc Dimittis
Howells – Requiem
Wesley – Ascribe Unto The Lord

In the fourth century the Roman Empire under Constantine was split into two and an eastern capital established at Byzantium, renamed by the emperor, in honour of himself, Constantinople.

This had major repercussions for the burgeoning Christian religion leading to many centuries of dispute between the Eastern and Western branches over doctrine and practice and leading, ultimately, to schism formalised in 1054.

For the history of European culture the Eastern Orthodox liturgy practised in Slavic countries, most specifically in Russia, has provided a counterpoint in both style and content to that of the western tradition be it Catholic or Protestant for many centuries. There is a profound solemnity to much of the eastern liturgy with its emphasis on the contemplation if icons and this is reflected in the music which has benefited in modern times from the attention of the greatest of Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Gretchaninov and Rachmaninov.

The use of ‘Church Slavonic’ as the language of worship, the traditional monophonic chants and the exploitation of the vast open spaces of cathedrals intensify the impact of the music but also present special challenges to Western choirs who attempt to convey the substance of this remarkable music. The tradition of very low bass voices too asks questions of both vocal technique and choral textures.

We have selected a group of pieces from 19th and 20th century composers to convey some idea of the range of this music. The simplicity of Nikolai Kedrov’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer contrasts with the complexity of Alexandre Gretchaninov’s ‘Now The Powers Of Heaven’. The drama of Rachmaninov’s ‘Come Let Us Worship’ from his famous Vesper collection is set against the stillness of Gretchaninov’s ‘Gladsome Light’ and the almost operatic ‘The Angel Cried Out’ by Pavel Chesnokov with its soaring soprano solo.

We present three masterpieces of the Western repertoire to throw the Russian pieces into relief. Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s music is the foundation of our modern tradition of sacred performance and his great anthem ‘Ascribe Unto The Lord’ of 1851 presents a guide to all that we had learned from the 19th century German tradition and especially from Mendelssohn.

Holst’s eight part ‘Nunc Dimittis’ is as near as Western composers ever get to the eastern tradition; Holst maintained an interest in the Orient throughout his life. However, the stillness of the opening does not last and, by the time of the Gloria, we are enjoying an almost symphonic momentum.

Central to the Western part of our programme is Herbert Howells’ ‘Requiem’ written in 1932 but not released for performance until 1980. After the death of Howell’s son Michael in 1935 this work grew in significance for the composer and some of its music was rearranged in ‘Hymnus Paradisi’ a work dedicated to Michael’s memory. The six sections are filled with the harmonic richness and expressive melody of Howells’ unmistakable language.

John Holloway 01/04/2015

The Power of the Spirit

Please join us in Cirencester Parish Church on 14 March or Holy Apostles Church in Cheltenham on 21 March for our next concert, The Power of the Spirit.

The programme will include:

Bach – Der Geist Hilft

Handel – Concerto Grosso Op. 6 No. 7 in B flat

Morten Lauridsen – Sure on this Shining Night

Cavalli – Magnificat a 8

Monteverdi – Dixit Dominus

Ola Gjeilo – Dark Night of the Soul

Boyce – Symphony No. 1 in B flat

Tickets are available online (Cirencester or Cheltenham), from Cirencester Tourist Information Office or from Lorna on 01242 603988.

Ancient & Modern

Ancient and Modern


Malmesbury Abbey – 15 November 2014, 7.30pm

Cirencester Parish Church – 22 November 2014, 7.30pm

Cantores Chamber Choir with David Whitehead (organ).

Cantores’ Autumn programme this year focuses on two periods of sacred choral composition which are generally regarded as high peaks of creative achievement, the Renaissance and our own time.

Despite a gap of four hundred years there are many common characteristics to the music. It is not just the demands of the liturgy, which have changed only little, or the common use of the Latin language, but all the composers presented here respond in a similar way to the possibilities of choral sound despite the use of different harmonic languages and, in our own time, the sound of the modern organ.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah set by Thomas Tallis and his great motet Loquebantur Variis Linguis contrast with William Byrd’s gentle Lullaby for the Christ child. These two composers mark the peak of the English Renaissance.

From the continent we have music from the Spaniard working in Rome Tomas Luis de Victoria, his intense Ave Maria and the famous setting of Psalm 51, the Miserere, by Gregorio Allegri.

Sung during Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel since the middle of the seventeenth century, this unique work has grown a mystique over the centuries, particularly resulting from the style of ornamentation traditionally used by the Roman singers. Most striking, of course, is the famed repeated soprano top C that is worth the ticket price on its own!

Music of our own time comes from Scotland with two Strathclyde Motets by James MacMillan; the breathtaking ‘Data est mihi’ and the profound, languid ‘Dominus dabit benignitatem’. Gabriel Jackson’s Missa Sanctae Margaretae was first performed in 2010 and Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars in 1998. These two composers represent the best of a flourishing field of sacred choral music in England today.

Ola Gjeilo is a Norwegian composer living and working in the USA, whose attractive choral writing has engaged choirs and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Northern Lights is a setting of part of the Song of Solomon and was inspired by the aurora borealis.

Tickets are available online, from Cirencester Tourist Information Office or from Lorna on 01242 603988.

Dates for your diaries…..

In November (15/11 in Malmesbury Abbey and 22/11 in Cirencester Parish Church) we will be joined by David Whitehead on the organ for a concert called “Ancient & Modern”. This will include sacred music from the great Renaissance masters from home and abroad and from living composers from the UK and Norway. The program will include:

Lassus – Ave Maria a8

Tallis – Lamentations

Tallis – Loquebantur

Byrd – Lullaby

Allegri – Miserere

Byrd – Laetentur coeli

Gabriel Jackson – Missa Sanctae Margaretae

Ola Gjeilo – Northern Lights

Dove – Seek him that maketh the seven stars

Macmillan – Data est mihi

Macmillan – Dominus dabit


And in 2015…..

14 March 2015 – Cirencester Parish Church, Cirencester

21 March 2015 – Holy Apostles Church, Cheltenham

20 June 2015 – Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul, Mill End, Northleach

27 June 2015 – The Holy Innocents Church, Highnam

The Seven Ages of Man


Holy Innocents Church, Highnam – Saturday 7 June 2014, 7.30pm

Cirencester Parish Church – Saturday 14 June 2014, 7.30pm

Rutter – Five Childhood Lyrics
Chilcott – Jazz Mass
Ives – Three English Folk Songs
Schubert – Three Part Songs
Holloway – Six Poems of John Drinkwater
Interspersed with entertaining readings

Cantores’ Summer programme this year contains words and music on the subject of youth and age.

John Rutter’s ‘Five Childhood Lyrics’ set traditional nursery poems including ‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’ and ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ to most accessible and immediately attractive music. The choir is joined at the piano by David Whitehead for music of youthful vigour in Bob Chilcott’s ‘Jazz Mass’. The composer manages to bring the sounds of the smoke filled jazz club into the church environment without compromising either. Grayston Ives’ ‘Three English Folk Songs’ tell of youth and love and loss. As a one-time member of the King’s Singers, Ives knows well how to project the vigour and energy of his subject.

The part songs with piano of Schubert at too rarely performed and we offer three: ‘The Gondolier’, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ and a late masterpiece ‘Gebet’ (Prayer) which sets a text of old age and the contemplation of the human condition.

The poetry of John Drinkwater that John Holloway set in celebration of Cantores’ first twenty years in 2011 encompasses youth and old age. Therein is to be seen ‘Cotswold Love’ which can be found in April “ if you’re eighteen or rising sixty-five”, the coming of the ‘Daffodils’ and the tap room songs of ‘Mamble’ to the consideration of ‘Immortality’ and the question of whether we shall take our love beyond the grave.

Tickets are available online, from Cirencester Tourist Information Office or from Lorna on 01242 603988.


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