Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Getting Organised

New Year, New Faces

Any club or group of people who meet regularly for a specified purpose has to have an organisation behind it. Commonly this will take the form of a committee whose job it is to make day-to-day decisions and run the group as the members would wish.

And Cantilena is no exception. With at least three concerts annually to arrange, soloists and orchestral players to engage and music to be sourced, it's not a simple task.

Cantilena is a registered charity and there are some rules to be followed if we are to maintain this status. One of these is the appointment of officers: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, to be exact. The size of the rest of the committee is up to us, but these four are the core.

When you think about it, it's really the minimum needed to make us functional. A spokesperson (and someone to step in if needed), someone to do all the communications and minutes and someone to handle the cash.

Many organisations find that, once a committee is appointed, there it stays, with the same people doing the same job for decades. There are two things wrong with this model.

The first most obvious one is that a few people do all the work, which hardly seems reasonable. Members don't always realise how much goes on behind the scenes, but there are times when it's a fair bit, believe me!

Secondly, when the same group has been operating for a long time, it's possible to get stale. It's harder to find new ideas and there can be a "well it's worked so far, why change?" attitude. Which is all very well, but the wealth of talent and ideas in the group as a whole remains untapped.

So, our constitution states that officers have a fixed maximum term of five years, after which new ones must be elected. Officers can step down with a relieved sense of a job well done and choir members can have a chance to participate more fully by taking their turn.

This is managed via the AGM, which takes place early in the new choir year in September, September 26th this year, to be exact.

We are hoping that new faces will give us new and exciting ideas for the next five years.

Find out more about Cantilena on Facebook and on our website

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Changing Seasons

New Term, New Year

The Summer has gone and we start the new year at Cantilena today. There is always some anxiety: has my voice stood up to a Summer of family parties and very little singing? Will there be new members? It's true that it does take a week or two to settle back in. Some members are still on holiday, so we won't really have an idea of our full complement for a while.

The next concert will be our Christmas concert and it's a strange thing to get into festive mode when September is only half gone. Maybe it's a bit like models who do the photo-shoots for swimwear in January and for winter warmers in July.

The music itself will help in that transition. We will be presenting a selection of the best Christmas items for choirs and I, for one, am looking forward to getting stuck in!

The concert will be on 1st December, just before the first Sunday in Advent, so perfect to get you in the mood.

Make a note in your diary: there'll be more information soon.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

What a bargain!

Choir’s got rhythm and at a bargain price

Cantilena’s Summer Concert last Saturday was an eagerly awaited affair. I am more familiar with their bigger Spring concerts and found that the relaxed atmosphere of this event was perfect for a hot Summer evening.

The venue, St Michael’s Church, Shepton Mallet, was a most suitable choice as it had all the amenities and a large hall and garden for the after-show buffet.

The concert was American themed with plenty of traditional spirituals and songs from the slave era. I recognised many – “Shenandoah”, “Swing Low” and, my favourite, “Little David Play on yo’ Harp”. But the triumph of the evening was surely “Steal Away”,  arranged by Michael Tippet for his oratorio “A Child of our Time”. 

Another good choice was the spiritual “Were you There?” – a sad song about the crucifixion, opened by two strong altos.

Cantilena was supported by Simply Uke, a local Ukulele band giving their first concert in front of a paying audience. They played well and the audience was most appreciative.

I very much enjoyed the evening which, at £10, including programme and delicious buffet prepared by choir members, was a bargain. I would have expected to pay £15.00 for a concert of this calibre.

Beatrice Dixon 9 July 2017

Thursday, 22 June 2017

With my Little Ukulele in my Hand

Ukulele Band Joins Cantilena

You learn something every day, they say, and I certainly did today.

At the Summer concert, Cantilena is being joined by Simply Uke, a local seven-piece ukulele band which will add to the American flavour of this concert. Click on the link to find out more.

I decided to find out exactly what a ukulele was and discovered that it was invented in Hawaii, adapted from a Portuguese stringed instrument called a machete, introduced in the 19th century by immigrants from the Azores and Madeira. From there it spread into the rest of the United States, becoming an important part of country music and jazz.

Simply Uke plays a wide range of music, including Classical, swing jazz, pop and blues. They will bring variety to the concert and I'm looking forward to hearing them.

The Hawaiian translation of ukulele is "jumping flea" - which I hope won't form a central part in the concert!

Details: Saturday 8 July at 7.30. St Michael's Church, Shepton Mallet BA4 5BP
             Tickets £10.00 (children under 15 £1.00) to include supper
             Available from: 01278 722870, 
             Dicketts Stationers, High St, Glastonbury, or on the door

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

We Got Rhythm

Exploring the Beat of American Music

One thing that often distinguishes American music from that of the Old World is its rhythmic freedom.

With influences from Ireland, Eastern European Jews and Africa, this is hardly surprising. And there was no musical establishment to hold musicians back. Influences combined; the African American Spiritual uses traditional Christian harmonies, which the slaves were taught by missionaries, and added their own speech patterns to give a unique flavour to their songs. 

In the northern states we see music that is much more based on old folk melodies. We are singing the charming Appalachian lullaby "Black Sheep". Listen to it by clicking on the link.

We are also adding music from Hawaii to the mix which makes this a "must do" event. All the details are below. 

Visit our  website to learn more about the concert and the choir.....

Monday, 29 May 2017

Sing for Joy

Invite Cantilena to your Event

In Cantilena we love to bring enjoyment to people through our singing. And this doesn't just mean at our regular concerts.

There are many events which are enhanced by singing; what better way to express your feelings, entertain guests or raise money for your favourite charity?

And we are proud to say that we can provide this service, too. We have sung at weddings, musical societies, churches; once even at Taunton Museum for an exhibition connected with Henry Purcell. So no type of event is beyond us.

We won't turn up mob-handed with all thirty of us. We offer smaller groups as befits the occasion. All the details are below.

Spread the word!

Monday, 22 May 2017


Life in Cantilena is never dull. We had barely recovered from performing Bach's Magnificat last month, with its baroque trumpets, drums and taxing choruses, than we started rehearsing for our Summer concert.

This Summer we are off to America which encompasses a very wide range of sound worlds. Some the audience may be tempted to join in with:  Li'l Liza Jane" or "I got Rhythm" as they have become familiar.

No concert of American choral music would be complete without African American Spirituals. Trapped in an alien place and away from their own culture, the slaves embraced Christianity which gave them some certainty of a life better than the one they were living.

Some of the most moving settings were incorporated by Michael Tippett into his work "A Child of our Time". I think that this is because he managed to tap into their intrinsic sadness as well as making them relevant for today. We will be singing "Steal Away" Click on this link to hear it for yourself.

Join us for this Transatlantic adventure on July 8 in Shepton Mallet. More details to follow.

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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mozart Fest

Spring is usually when Cantilena "pushes the boat out", so to speak. It is the time when we are more likely to perform a major work and include an orchestra and professional soloists.

This spring is no exception. We will be performing Mozart's Requiem, together with his lilting Laudate Dominum from the Mass in C and his tender Ave Verum.

Mozart wrote the Requiem at the end of his life; in fact he couldn't finish it and it was left to others, notably Süssmayr, to finish it from the various notes and hints that Mozart had left. There is a romantic story about a mysterious visitor, dressed in black who commissioned the work, leading Mozart to believe that this was Death himself. However,  the person who commissioned it was actually  Count Franz Von Walseggwho was renowned for trying to pass off others' work as his own; hence the anonymity. Mozart's death made secrecy impossible, of course!

Find out more:

Despite the number of people that had a hand in its completion it's a very coherent work and touches us all with its passion and beauty.

We are fortunate to have some young and highly talented soloists join us this year and I will fill in more with my next blog.

This is a treat not to be missed.

Join us at St Mary's Church, Glastonbury on Saturday 25 April at 7.30 pm for this feast! 

Details on the poster.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Busy, busy

November has been a busy month for Cantilena.

On Thursday 20 November we sang in the switching on of the Christmas lights at Clark's Village. We were hosted by Heart FM. who had set up a bandstand in the centre. Their banter may have been a bit unexpected, but the crowd of shoppers seemed to like it. I would have liked to hear more singing from them, though!.

But we gave a good account of ourselves and later sang at various locations around the village, to the delight of several small children!

It was more tiring than we expected but has hopefully increased our standing locally, as well as giving us an opportunity to sing carols, which should never be missed!

We shall be doing this again on 11 December for their "Narnia Wonderland" late night shopping event. 

If you are planning some Christmas shopping at Clark's Village anyway, why not combine it with coming to hear us sing the old favourites! Even joining in if you fancy it!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


The final pieces that make up our autumn concert are two motets by the Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. Bruckner is mostly renowned for his grand, expressive symphonies but he wrote a number of pieces for unaccompanied voices.

In our concert on 22 November we are singing "Christus Factus Est" a passionate piece describing Christ's sacrifice for our sakes. The piece soars up and down and uses a wide dynamic range to express the words. 

Click on this link for a taster:

Bruckner wrote the second motet, "Locus Iste" for the dedication of the new Linz Cathedral in 1869. The words mean "This place was created by God". The soaring lines reflect the neo-gothic arches and pillars of the cathedral, while the beginning and end convery reverence and awe.

I had the priviledge, a few years ago, of singing this work in Linz Cathedral which was rather special.

Come and hear us:

November 22 2014
7.30 pm
St Mary's Church, Glastonbury
Tickets £10.00 (children under 15 £1.00)

Julia Barrett