Music for Advent

Christmas music, you say? In mid-November? Fear not – there will be no overly-familiar Christmas carols in Cantores’ next programme (18 November in Cirencester Parish Church, and 25 November in St Mary’s, Prestbury, Cheltenham). Instead, the choir will explore many different styles of advent music, from the Middle Ages to our own time.

Cantores will combine images of Christ as a rose, as depicted by Praetorius, Howells and Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom, with French music from Villete and Poulenc – their settings of ‘O Magnum Mysterium’, William Byrd’s intricate and lively motet ‘Vigilate’, and Henry Purcell’s ‘Magnificat in G Minor’. Ola Gjeilo’s ‘Second Eve’ adds a contemporary touch, along with John Tavener’s much loved ‘The Lamb’.

Advent, often seen as a season of penitence, is very obviously also one of anticipation, so do come and join us and enjoy some lovely music in either of these wonderful settings.

Tickets (£15; £12 for concessions; under-16s free) are available from Lorna Eayrs on 01242 603988 and online for Cirencester and Prestbury.

Singing more traditional Christmas carols, Cantores will be accompanying a Christmas service at Down Ampney on Saturday December 9. Everyone of course is very welcome.

And why not make a note now of the dates for Cantores’ ‘The American Dream’ concerts in spring next year – March 17 (Cirencester) and March 24 (St Peter’s, Leckhampton, Cheltenham)?


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.

A Hymn To The Virgin


The person of Christ’s mother has dominated Christian thought since the earliest of times despite our knowing so little about her directly. She has been made to personify so many of the Christian virtues: purity, selfless love, a model for perfect motherhood.

Visions of Mary and stories of her interaction with the faithful are very numerous over the centuries leading to her cult being strong especially in the Roman church and her being the inspiration for some of the greatest works of art from the middle ages up to the present time.

The central work in our programme is the ten part Stabat Mater by Domenico Scarlatti who lived and worked in Madrid from 1728 until his death in 1757.

The poem, dating from the 13th century, is thought to be by the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi and describes Mary’s suffering as she stands at the foot of the cross. Scarlatti divides the poem into ten sections each describing different aspects of the meaning of the cross, its significance for humanity and Mary as intercessor and inspiration.

The poem Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) dates from the middle ages and has been set many times by composers up to  the present day. Victoria himself set it at least three times and this composition dates from about 1576.

All the traditional poems in honour of Mary have numerous plainsong tunes associated with them. Monteverdi’s setting of the words Ave Maris Stella (Hail Star of the Sea), found in his Vespers of 1610, takes the plainsong melody and gives it a variety of  contrasting arrangements in each verse.

Our collection of more modern Marian music starts with Bruckner’s famous setting of Ave Maria. Pierre Villette’s Hymne A La Vierge dates from 1954 and Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin from 1935.

The new generation of composers is represented by the L0ndon based Welsh composer Gareth Treseder who sets the traditional English  medieval poem ‘Blessed be that Maid Marie’ . This focusses on Mary’s pivotal rôle in the Christmas story.

We will be performing our concert  on the following dates:

Saturday November 19th at 7.30p.m. Malmesbury Abbey


Saturday November 26th at 7.30p.m. Northleach Parish Church

Music of Our Time

Cantores -7-16

Our next two concerts are on:

Saturday 9 July 2016 in Cirencester Parish Church

Saturday 16 July in Holy Apostles, Cheltenham

In their latest programme, Music of Our Time, Cantores concentrate on music of the 20th and 21st century with its huge diversity. The main work is Joseph Jongen’s little performed Mass, originally scored for brass and organ, first performed in 1946. This performance will dispense with the brass!

Other pieces in the programme include Edgar Bainton’s  well known anthem “And I saw a New Heaven”, from 1928 and the much loved quartet of motets dating from 1960 by Durufle. He influenced another Cantores favourite, Ola Gjeilo, when he wrote “Tota Pulchra Es”.

Eric Whitacre is another much loved composer, whose challenging work is much enjoyed by Cantores. The atmospheric “Nox Arumque” is the latest of his work to be performed by them.

Sir James MacMillan’s haunting “A New Song” has a deceptive, Gallic simplicity. Peter Aston’s “Alleluia Psallat” from 1973 is less well-known but nonetheless striking.

New to Cantores’ repertoire is Karl Jenkins, but his work is likely to be familiar. “Benedictus” is from his very successful “The Armed Man” and “Cantate Domino” from “Adiemus – Songs of Sanctuary” while the joyous “Exultate Jubilate” is arranged from an instrumental pieces.

The full programme will include:

Joseph Jongen – Mass Op.130
Macmillan – A New Song
Whitacre – Nox arumque
Peter Aston – Alleluia Psallat
Ola Gjeilo – Tota pulchra es Maria
Edgar Bainton – And I saw a new Heaven
Duruflé – Quatre motets
Karl Jenkins – Cantate Domino, Benedictus, Exultate Jubilate

Tickets can now be purchased online, from Cirencester Tourist Information Centre or from Lorna on 01242 603988.

If you would like to join our mailing list to get regular updates on our concerts please email me on