Monday, 12 December 2011

O Magnum Mysterium

I sometimes think it's a pity that we only get one crack at our concerts. Last Saturday's performance felt so special and we had a respectable-sized audience.

Of course, there were some mistakes, but we won't dwell on those! We managed a magical start with church simply illuminated by rows of candles while we sang the plainsong Rorate Coeli. And there were moments when we tapped into the essential mystery and passion of the music.

The motet "O Magnum Mysterium" captures so well the sense of rapt silence surrounding the nativity and I felt that choir and audience were in a sense suspended during the performance.

The audience lustily joined in the with the carols and they and the two readings created a link between the world of Victoria and today.

So it's a shame that it's all over. Although, who knows? Having just one shot may add tension and drama that could be lacking in a repeat.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Let's get together

Suddenly, it's nearly on us! Our concert is on Saturday and all the pieces are coming together.

As last year, we are joined by St Margaret's Hospice, who do such wonderful work for cancer sufferers and their familes in Somerset and give a big "Thankyou" to Robert Burns of Burns the Bread for his generous gift of a hunderd mince pies to help the festivities along.

It's unusual in this part of Somerset to be offered a concert like this: with a feast of luscious Spanish music for unaccompanied voices to usher in Christmas.

And there are carols for you to sing as well!

Here's a reminder:

Date:           10 December 2011
Place:          St Mary's Church, Glastonbury
Time:          7.30 pm
Tickets:       £10.00 (to include refreshments)

Don't miss it!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Full of Grace

In the story of Advent is it really Mary who has the starring role. Advent starts with the visit of Gabriel to tell her the somewhat startling news that a: she is pregnant and b: that the father is God. Living as we do in a time of female emancipation, it's easy to ask why Mary was chosen for this honour. She's nothing special, an ordinary woman, engaged to be married to an  ordinary man.

Even in biblical times, another, feistier girl, might have had a lot of questions to ask about the news that the Angel had told her she should be delighted about. She might have protested or been more fearful about the social and moral consequences of this event. She may have doubted her ability to bear such a responsibility.

But Mary, apart from querying the news's compatibility with her virgin state, takes it all rather calmly and responds that, basically, she will bow to God's will. Later, with her cousin Elizabeth, she speaks the words that now form the Magnificat and this does suggest that she wasn't uneducated.

In the end, it would seem that Mary was suitable because she was "full of grace" - religious and primed to accept the dictates of God.

Countless hymns in praise of Mary have been written by countless numbers of composers from early plainchant to the present day.

In our Autumn Concert we feature many of these works, written mostly by Tomas Luis De Victoria. The Missa Ave Maris Stella is based on a simple plainchant melody (later made famous by Monteverdi in his Vespers).

The Ave Maria, sets to sublime music one of the best known hymns to Mary

Here are the translations for these pieces:

To hear these pieces and much more, come to our concert:

7.30 pm 10 December 2011
St Mary's Church, Glastonbury
Tickets £10.00 from The Glastonbury Music Shop, by calling 01278 722870, or on the door.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


This autumn's concert by Cantilena will be given on Saturday (10 December 2011) just before the third Sunday in Advent . Advent marks the period just before Christmas and is a time of preparation and anticipation.

This year we are celebrating with a feast of Spanish Polyphony of the sixteenth century. This music is truly ravishing and it is easy just to sit back and allow the delectable harmonies to wash over you! But to understand the meaning of the words is greatly to enhance your experience; and, as most of us these days are not Latin speakers, a printed version of the words is helpful.

We start the concert with a plea to God to send down his goodness on his desolate people. The text originated from the Old Testament and refers very specifically to Jerusalem and Israel generally. But we can extend that to mean his whole creation, especially in these troubled times.

And the reply comes: all we have to do is wait.

So starts the Christian journey to Christmas. Even if you are not of the Christian faith you can empathise with the longing for peace and a certain future implicit in this piece.

You can find a full translation by clicking this link:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


If you love to sing you also love to share that with others. Long standing Cantilena member Brian Marshall shares with us some of his joy in singing.

I joined Cantilena about 6 years ago, after singing with a bigger local choir. I immediately felt at home and can honestly say that Cantilena are the friendliest group with whom I have sung.
Music, and especially singing, are key (sorry!) parts of my life. I was lucky to have been brought up in a musical household where both my parents sang and played. I was with several choirs in Essex before moving to beautiful Somerset 8 years ago.
For me, singing is energising and encompassing and touches at a deep emotional level. At times, the experience of singing in a group can be quite magical and particularly bears out Aristotle’s aphorism that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I especially love singing unaccompanied pieces. This demands greater rigour and a need really to listen and blend with other parts. We are currently rehearsing some a cappella music that is glorious to sing and - we hope - listen to: gems from the late renaissance by Victoria and contemporaries.

Picking up such a score represents for me a significant historic link as we re-create the exact sounds that a composer set down in a very different world, sometimes many hundreds of years ago.
If you can, come to our next concert at St Mary’s Glastonbury on 10 December 2011  and find out if the music is as rewarding to hear as to sing.
(This is going to be such an unusual concert - you really don't want to miss it!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


If Cantilena blogs appear at somewhat irregular intervals it's because that's the nature of the choir. Summertime is quiet while we all rest and take time out.

But we came back this autumn to a treat. Tomas Luis De Victoria died in 1611 and was just about the most famous and respected musician of his day. His religious choral works are full of that mixture of devotion and sensuality that so characterises the Spanish polyphony of the time.

His skill is also evident in the way that the melodies and lines just seem to flow effortlessly. He often uses plainchant as the basis for his works and this is especially evident in his Missa "Ave Maris Stella". This ravishing work uses the Spanish plainsong throughout, yet the whole piece exudes a richness of harmony.

We are really enjoying singing this music! Every part has beautiful lines and all parts interweave seamlessly.

We're celebrating his life on 10 December 2011 at St Mary's Church Glastonbury and we hope that as many people as possible will join us to share the joy and pleasure of Victoria's music

Listen to some Victoria - his wonderful O Quam Gloriosum!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Backs Against the Wall

Thoughts by Tina

What a lovely setting for  a great evening of music and voice with our backs to the wall of the ‘Rural Life Barn’!
We were blessed with a dry, fine evening, and when the weather changed its mind, it didn’t matter, as by then we were all nicely under the cover of the magnificent Rural Life Barn’s roof!

 Armed with our music and extra seats, it was such a pleasure to turn up at this venue, to see so many people, some familiar, arriving at the same time , all looking forward to what turned out to be a most entertaining, fun  and simply enjoyable evening.
Tony Bevan gave us our notes - just like that! -  then  off we started with ‘Fair Phyllis’ and my goodness, we know her so well!! Followed by pretty love songs and songs that featured, gardens, trees, a cuckoo and a dog called Bingo!  We so had fun singing them. During the first half outside, Ann Parsons delighted us all  singing ‘The Oak and  the Ash’ so beautifully . In the second part and   after refreshments, Wendy Howiantz and Tina Della Valle( that’s me!) sang ‘Scarborough Fair’ within the  acoustics of the dimly lit barn. Thank goodness for our special little lights! Thanks, too, Wendy, I hope you enjoyed our duet - I did!

We shared the evening with folk group ‘Rough Round the Edges’ who played and sang brilliantly with lots of ‘toe tapping’ music. Towards  the end of their stint, a medley of ‘Hornpipe’ music was played, with the audience- and us- clapping to the tunes . Great fun.
Cantilena  rounded the programme off with Gibbons' "The Silver Swan" followed by Sullivan's "The Long Day Closes".

We had lots of very good feedback and all before going home too, so thank you everyone for your welcome support. Thank you, too, Tony and all my fellow singing friends. Hope to see you at our next concert and of course if you like singing, you may want to come and join us! Singing is  good for the soul, you know and I love to sing!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Media Exposure

Folk at the Barn in Press Release

 A good bit of publicity in Yesterday's Journal!

We leave no stone unturned in our attempts to gain a wider audience. To be sure, Cantilena has its own camp-followers, but we are always happy to welcome new faces and to perform to new people.

Roll on the sunshine and tomorrow!

Thursday, 30 June 2011


Cantilena starts the countdown to the Summer 2011 concert.

The weather at last seems to be improving and we have hopes that at the "Folk at the Barn" concert won't actually be in the barn but in the open.

There's always a lot of work connected with any Cantilena event, but concerts in venues that are not primarily intended to be used as such take a deal more!

Chairs have to be commandeered. The Rural Life Museum, not being an events venue either, has some but not enough for the audience we hope to attract. St John's Church, Glastonbury is kindly lending us some as well. But for the choir to be able to sit down, we will have to bring our own!

There will be wine and soft drinks in the interval, in the barn, so we have to bring bottles, glasses, coolers and have tables all ready.

We have to make sure that the gates are all manned, access is right and have someone to handle the money.

If it pours and we sing in the semi-lit barn, how are we to see our music? So we have made sure that we all have personal lamps to light our folders!

However, we wouldn't do it if we didn't think it worthwhile for the chance to sing in such a lovely and unique setting

And we wouldn't do it if we didn't think our audience would enjoy it too!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Folk at the Barn

Well, you can't say that Cantilena is stuck in a routine! For many years we have performed our summer programme in the Abbey Kitchen at Glastonbury Abbey. While this is a beautiful venue there are severe restrictions on audience numbers and the acoustic can make our voice reverberate inside the tall chimney rather alarmingly.

So, this year we have changed our venue to the fascinating Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury. We have also entered into a collaboration with local folk musicians Rough Round the Edges to offer our audience and entertaining mix of madrigals, part-songs and local folk music.

The evening should be great fun and, at £10.00 a ticket, a bargain as well!

Here are the details:

Date: 9 July 2011
Location: Somerset Rural Life Museum
Time: 7.00 pm
Tickets: £10.00 obtainable from the RLM 01458 831197

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cantilena Comes to Shepton

Spring Concert 2011

In Cantilena our passion is bringing good music to Mid-Somerset. True, we do keep ourselves out of Wells, where music is more of a mainstream force. But for Glastonbury, Street, Somerton and Langport we have been one of the main providers of Classical choral music for many years.

Now we are performing our annual main event - the Spring Concert at St Michael's Church, Shepton Mallet. We are looking forward to stretching our wings in this way.

All the details are here - don't miss this for a different Cantilena Experience!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Passionate Affair

Handel Gets There First

In the world of Music the name "Passion" has become synonymous with J S Bach. as though there was no such thing until he wrote his famous works.

This isn't actually the case and this term we are bringing to the Glastonbury listening public a very special treat.

This is the Passion written by Handel in about 1716. He used a text written by Barthold Heinrich Brockes in 1712. Others also set this text, including Telemann.

The format is substantially the same as that later adopted by Bach, with choruses, a story-telling evangelist, chorales, arias and crowd scenes played by the choir.

It is said that J S Bach was so impressed with the music that he copied it out in full and it is clear that many elements of Handel's work have crept into Bach's St John Passion.

We are looking forward to being able to bring this long-neglected work before audiences.

The concert will be at 7.30 pm on 9 April 2011 at St Mary's Church, Glastonbury. Tickets £10.00 from 01458 224486, the Glastonbury Music Shop or on the door.

See you there!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Cantilena Ushers in Christmas....

When we chose 11th December 2010 as the date for our autumn concert at St Mary's, Glastonbury, we did have some concerns about the clash with the carol concert at Wells Cathedral and the Frost Fair concert at St John's Glastonbury. Glastonbury was heaving that evening with revellers from the fair; would St Mary's be heaving too?

We needn't have worried! For our first concert at St Mary's in eight years and also the first under the baton of Tony Bevan in about the same time, we had a nearly capacity audience.

The Orchestra put together for the occasion produced a truly musical interpretation and there was palpable excitement in the church.

We were pretty strict about sticking to the Advent theme with readings from Rowan Williams,  Isiah & "Cider with Rosie". The audience joined in with Advent carols with considerable enthusiasm. And Bach's beautiful "Wachet Auf" brought the evening to a most satisfying close.

We'd offered to showcase St Margaret's Hospice , and their representative, Sue Medlicott explained to the audience the importance of the work the Hospice does, believing that every human life has a value and should be lived to the full, even it its last moments. Contributions from audience members topped £250.00.

And let's not forget the mince pies from Burns the Bread! Delicious smells of mulled wine lured audience members into the adjacent church hall and they attacked the heaped plates of mince pies, washing them down with the wine.

It's so rewarding to be able to combine the pleasure of singing beautiful music with supporting a very good cause. In fact, I think that people who chose St John's or Wells Cathedral over us were missing out!

Weather or not

We are so glad that in other parts of the country the weather couldn't deter contributors to Heart Research UK's "Sing for your Heart" event. Unfortunately for Cantilena, yet another heavy fall of snow put a stop to our event which was planned for the 21st December 2010 at the Rural Life Museum.

Many members of the choir live in rural locations and being cut off is not unusual for them. "regrettable, but understandable" was how one choir member put it.

Never mind, hopefully in 2011 we will be able to combine our desire to sing carols where they should be sung - in the streets and taverns - with raising money for a good cause!

Watch this space!