The Land of Music


A feast of predominantly English music for our last concert under the direction of John Holloway at Highnam Parish Church on June 29th 2019. The programme will include Holst’s folk song arrangements, two of Parry’s Songs of Farewell, Irish-born Stanford’s Three Motets, William Harris’s ‘Faire is the Heaven’ and conclude with Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor. Some of the music will be performed in a concert the week before – on June 22nd  in Wyck Rissington as part of the celebrations to mark the 750th anniversary of the church. Gustav Holst was organist at Wyck Rissington in the early 1890s and two organ voluntaries by Holst will be performed by Cheltenham organist John Wright.

John Holloway is retiring as musical director of Cantores after 12 years in the post. Cantores have appointed Simon Harper as their new musical director from September.

22nd June 2019 at 6pm – St Laurence Church, Wyck Rissington
In aid of repairs to the Nave and Tower. Tickets £25 to include interval drinks and nibbles are available only from Elizabeth Ransom on 01451 822275.

29th June 2019 at 7.30pm – Highnam Parish Church, Gloucester
Tickets £15 (Concessions £12, U16s free) are available online or from Aileen on 07722 027659 or at the door.


Serenade to Music


Our Spring programme on 16 March at Holy Trinity Church, Minchinhampton (7:30pm) and 23 March at Cirencester Parish Church (7:30pm) contains sacred and secular music from the 18th century to the present day. We’re joined by our regular distinguished string ensemble and by Julian Elloway at the organ.

The first half presents a range of works for choir and strings beginning with the Kyrie from Haydn’s famous ‘Nelson’ Mass. Less well known perhaps is Vivaldi’s setting of the Magnificat which is full of surprises and dramatic gestures. Lovers of his ‘Gloria’ will not be disappointed however!

Mendelssohn was an early admirer of the music of J.S.Bach and he wrote a number of pieces emulating his style. ‘Wen nur den lieben Gott läßt walten’ (If you but allow God to guide you) is the third of a set of chorale cantatas dating from 1828. Also, in the first half Julian will play Handel’s popular organ concerto known as ‘The Cuckoo and the Nightingale’.

The second half contains three works by the Latvian composer Ëriks Ešenvalds who was born in 1977. ‘Only in sleep’ sets words by Sara Teasdale and features a folk-song like soprano solo. ‘The Heaven’s Flock’ has words by Paulann Petersen conjuring up a scene of night-time in the countryside, the heavens full of stars, the title of the third piece. ‘Stars’ returns to Sara Teasdale and Ešenvalds evokes the impression of the night sky by including the sound of tuned wine glasses played by wet fingers; a magical effect.

We return to our own shores for the final works in our concert. Jonathan Dove wrote ‘Seek him that maketh the seven stars’ in 1998 and sets visionary words from the book of Amos.

Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, with words from Act 5 of ‘The Merchant of Venice’, was written in 1938 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Henry Wood’s first concert. For this work the choir is joined by the strings and Julian Elloway at the piano.

Tickets £15 (Concessions £12, U16s free) are available from Andrew on 07800 737078 or at the door, or online.


In Tune with Heaven


Our Winter programme on 17 November at Cirencester Parish Church (7:30pm) and 24 November at St Mary’s Church, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham (7:30pm) contains sacred music from the Renaissance to the present day.

Francisco Guerrero was born in Seville in 1528 and died there in 1599. His motet ‘Ave virgo sanctissima’ is in praise of Mary, “bright star of the sea, precious pearl, beautiful as the lily”. The fluid expressiveness of the music hides a strict canon between the two soprano parts.

Fifty years younger than Guerrero, Thomas Weelkes was a colourful character. In 1613 he was dismissed by the dean and chapter of Chichester Cathedral for being drunk at the organ and using bad language during divine service. However, his musical qualities allowed for his reinstatement and he remained at Chichester until his death in 1623 although his behaviour did not improve; in 1619 Weelkes was again reported to the Bishop. His Gloria is characteristically exuberant.

Today, if Josef Rheinberger is remembered at all, it is for his challenging and elaborate organ music. However he was a prolific composer of opera, symphonies and chamber music as well as church music including twelve masses. He lived from 1851 until his death in 1901 in Munich and his music is strongly influenced by that of Brahms and Bach.

Randall Thompson’s most popular and recognizable choral work is his anthem ‘Alleluia’, commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky for the opening of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts in 1940. A noted teacher as well as composer, Thompson worked at the University of Virginia and at Harvard.

Herbert Sumsion’s compositional style reflects the influence of his more famous contemporaries Howells, Finzi, and Vaughan Williams. Organist of Gloucester Cathedral between 1928 ans 1967 ‘They that go down to the sea in ships’ is a pinnacle of the Anglican repertoire responding colourfully to the different moods of the sea.

Paul Mealor rose to prominence with the composition of this work ‘Ubi Caritas’ for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.

The full programme will include:

Ave virgo sanctissima​ – Francisco Guerrero
Gloria in excelsis Deo​ – Thomas Weelkes
Mass in E flat Op 109 – ​Josef Rheinberger 
Alleluia​ – Randall Thompson​
They that go down to the sea – ​Herbert Sumsion​
Ubi Caritas – ​Paul Mealor​
Jubilate​ – Benjamin Britten​

Tickets £15 (Concessions £12, U16s free) are available at the door or online here

Music’s Praise – 23 June 2018

June 2018

Michael Hurd, the composer of the headline work in our programme ‘Music’s Praise’, was born in Gloucester in 1928 and died in 2006. Written for the Stroud Festival in 1968, the work sets four poems by Alexander Pope, William Strode, William Shakespeare and Robert Herrick for chorus with an accompaniment of string ensemble or piano. The music mines the rich vein of twentieth century English pastoral romanticism, contrasting differing ways in which music can reflect and inspire the human condition.

When John Holloway set ‘Six Poems of John Drinkwater’ in celebration of Cantores’ first twenty years in 2011 it had been some decades since he had performed Michael Hurd’s songs but the unconscious influences are clear! John Drinkwater was one of the so-called Dymock poets, including Rupert Brooke and Edward Thomas, some of whom lived in or near the village in Gloucestershire and were writing in the years immediately preceding the First World War. Their words conjure a lost world of bucolic innocence and the looming tragedy of war.

The programme also presents three vocally challenging Baroque masterpieces, of which perhaps the best known is Handel’s famous coronation anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’, composed for George II in 1727, some 42 years after Purcell’s had composed ‘My Heart is Inditing’ for the coronation of James II in 1685, the year of Handel’s birth. The work juxtaposes ensembles with full choruses, with notably complex overlapping rhythms and textures.

The motets of J.S.Bach paved the way for generations of succeeding composers, in particular Mendelssohn and Brahms. Bach’s lines and textures are uncompromisingly instrumental, yet the music displays his incomparably profound response to the text, which in this case is drawn from Psalm 117 ‘Praise the Lord all ye people’.

Cantores will present the same programme again on Saturday 30 June in Forthampton Parish Church (near Tewkesbury) at 7.30pm.  Tickets £15, available on the door or telephone 01684 292401.  Concessions available; U16s free.

Lux Aeterna

Lux Aeterna

Cantores’ programme to be performed on March 17th in Cirencester Parish Church and on March 24th in St Peter’s Church Leckhampton comprises works inspired by the idea of light as a symbol of wisdom, enlightenment or creativity.

The main work is ‘Lux Aeterna’ by the American composer Morten Lauridsen and written in 1997. The five movements contain texts from the Requiem where light is seen as the ultimate state of rest and the Latin hymns ‘O nata lux’ and ‘Veni sancte spiritus’. This music, always radiant and often ecstatic, has helped to make Lauridsen one of the most popular composers currently writing for choirs.

In stark contrast is Brahms’ large scale motet ‘Warum ist das Licht gegeben’ – ‘Why has light been given for such trouble?’. This begins with a bleak and chromatic fugue but resolves finally into the major key, ‘In peace and joy I go my way’.

The programme also includes motets by Tallis and Byrd, two settings of ‘Hail gladdening light’ by Charles Wood and Alexander Grechanninov and a major work by John Rutter, in a style far distant from his Christmas carols, ‘Hymn to the Creator of Light’.

Tickets (£15; £12 for concessions; under-16s free) are available from Andrew on 01242 573193 and online for Cirencester and Leckhampton.

The Song of Songs

Song of SongsThe Song of Songs, or The Song of Solomon, is an erotic love poem in the Old Testament and a source of  inspiration for composers through the ages.

For Cantores’ summer concerts, conductor John Holloway has chosen music from the Renaissance and our own time featuring settings of words from the poem.  The concerts are in Highnam Parish Church on Saturday 24 June, and in Cirencester Parish Church on Saturday 1 July; both at 7.30pm.

The central piece is the mass for double choir  “Ego Flos Campi” by Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, a Spanish composer born in Malaga in 1590 but who spent most of his life in Mexico.  There are definite Latin American flavours in his music.  The same words, as set by Venetian composer Francisco Guerrero (b. 1528), will make for an interesting comparison.  Two further motets, one by Guerrero and the other by Spanish polyphonic genius Tomas Luis de Victoria, make up the Renaissance section of the programme.

Bridging a gulf of several centuries, we come to two settings of “My beloved spake”, one by Patrick Hadley and the other by John Sanders, organist at Gloucester Cathedral until quite recently.  Alongside these comes William Walton’s famous 1938 setting of  “Set me as a seal upon thine heart”.

John Holloway is a composer, as well as conductor of Cantores and Tewkesbury Choral Society, and we are very pleased to be giving another performance of “The Garden”, which he first wrote for Cantores in 2009.  And John Wright, an old friend of the choir, will complement the choral works with some solo organ pieces.

So do come!  It promises to be an interesting concert, with some familiar and some lesser known pieces to delight your ears.

German Masterpieces


John Holloway has chosen a programme of Baroque and Romantic German pieces for Cantores’ next concert – to be performed in Cirencester Parish Church on Saturday 18 March; and again on 25 March at Holy Apostles Church in Cheltenham.  Both concerts start at 7.30pm.

Two motets by Heinrich Schuetz and two JS Bach cantatas – nos. 4 and 191 – will satisfy fans of Baroque music, and most people will love Mozart’s famous ‘Ave Verum Corpus’.  Two motets by Mendelssohn and Brahms’ exquisite ‘Geistliches Lied’ comprise the Romantic section of the concert.

We will be joined by our usual string ensemble, who have accompanied us on many occasions; and we also welcome back David Whitehead as our organist for these concerts.

If you have heard these forces performing before, you will not want to miss this concert – and if you haven’t, then come along and hear some glorious music performed by some superb musicians and hear Cantores at their best.

Cantores next perform German Classical and Romantic masterpieces in March 2017, and this will undoubtedly suit their rich, chordal sound.’ (David Watt)

So put the date(s) in your diary and buy your tickets early – this could be a sell-out.