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

Monday, 10 November 2014


One of the special things about Cantilena is the wealth of local talent that's available for us to use as soloists and accompanists.

We often perform unusual works that give young performers opportunities to widen their repertoire. Standards are high and so we all benefit.

This term is no exception; in fact we are benefitting from three home-grown soloists.

Accompanying us on the organ throughout the concert is Ashley Marshfield. Ashley is presently music director at St Thomas's Church in Wells. Find out more about him on his Twitter page:https://twitter.com/AMarshfield

The works we are performing require two soloists: Baritone and Soprano.

Rob Clark, baritone, is no stranger to Cantilena, having sung with us in 2013. He told me that his early musical love was the trumpet but, after he successfully auditioned to play the lead role in a college production of "Grease", for which he felt he should have a few singing lessons, he turned his talents to singing! He hasn't developed  a career in musical theatre, but has sung with Harry Christophers early music group The Sixteen.

It is a special pleasure to welcome Helen Ostafew, soprano. Her parents, Jan and Nick, used to be valuable members of Cantilena for many years before their removal to Dorset. Helen studied classical singing at The University of Leeds during which she spent a year at Enschede. She is very active in many ways, singing solo in many concerts, directing two choirs, writing music for performance and also developing her jazz singing skills.

Welcome to all these wonderful performers - come along and support them!

Concert details:            

Date:                22 November 2014
Time:                7.30 pm
Location:          St Mary's Church, Glastonbury
Tickets:            £10.00 (£1 children under 15)

Sunday, 9 November 2014

All the Way from America

Which may seem a strange title when I am going to talk about a work by the great Bohemian composer Anton Dvorak.

But it's true. Dvorak went to America in 1892. He was asked, in advance of his visit, to write a piece to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America.

He was promised a suitably celebratory text. but none was forthcoming. In desperation he turned to the text of the Te Deum. He felt that it was joyous enough for the occasion and it also appealed to his own religious convictions. In the event it was not performed at the celebrations, but two weeks later with a choir of 250 singers.

Cantilena has 25 singers but feel sure that we can do this work justice. It is a happy work, full of complex rhythms and unusual harmonies.

This concert promises to be unusual.

Don't miss it!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Music all over God's Green Earth

It's always good for a choir to take up a fresh challenge. This Autumn Cantilena is doing that in more than one way.

We have decided to have two concerts this autumn; one will be a carol concert entirely devoted to Christmas (more on this soon), but first we are performing music by renowned composers from Bohemia and Hungary.

The main work will be Zoltan Kodaly's Missa Brevis. This is a mysterious setting of the standard mass text in Latin.

Kodaly is remembered, among other things, for his love of Hungarian Folk Music, of which he was an avid collector and for bringing the joy of singing to children and young people with his joyful and entertaining folk-song settings.

Here is a quote from a recent review:

"Zoltán Kodály's Missa Brevis can be a bewildering experience. It's an expanse of music, ranging from deep-throated organ runs to angelic boys-choir arrangements--all over, one might say, God's green earth." 

It promises to be an unusual and uplifting experience, both for singers and audience.

Come and hear us on:

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

Email cantilena@hotmail.co.uk for more information.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Capturing an Era

Our 2014 summer concert is devoted to the decade which includes the First World War. Apart from "In Flanders Fields" none of the pieces we are performing are directly related to the war. But nearly all of them encapsulate a feeling that something is coming to an end and that we are poised on the brink of something new and maybe terrible.

For example. Elgar's setting of Guido Cavalcanti's "Go Song of Mine!" describes in chromatic passages that are both despairing and ecstatic the need for man's hard heart to be broken before he can achieve salvation. In "Serenade" the contrast between dreams of life and liberty and the sadness of reality is expressed

Stanford's "Haven" shows us a shore of such desolate greyness that we can feel the chill. 

The concert includes "rest" an early Vaughan Williams setting of a poem by Christina Rossetti in which the poet longs for death as a release from all earthly sensations.

This is not to say that the concert is gloomy! Far from it - the songs are all beautiful and melodic and Stanford's "Blue Bird" shows the skies clearing as the bird of joy flies above. But there's a real nostalgia for earlier, uncomplicated times.

Let's leave the last word to Finzi with his setting of Robert Bridges' "Clear and Gentle Stream":

"Clear and gentle stream!
Known and loved so long, 
That hast heard the song 
And the idle dream 
Of my boyish day;"

Who doesn't look back to a time when emotions were simple and the shining future beckoned?

Come and enjoy this evocation of a lost time which includes the essentially English nostalgic occasion - a cream tea

Monday, 2 June 2014


Glastonbury Connection

We are, as was explained in our last blog, excited to be performing "In Flanders Fields" set by Andrew Bunbury as part of our Summer 2014 concert.

This will be the UK premier of the work, the world premier having been in Amiens Cathedral in October 2013. So how did we discover this work and decide that it was especially suitable for us?

Well, the choir secretary also sings with the English Concert Singers who perform at a range of venues in England and abroad. And it was with them that she went to sing in Amiens last year. Andrew Bunbury also sings with the ECS and so the connection was made.

St Benedict's Glastonbury
Andrew composed the piece as part of a larger work,  Waffenfreunde (Friends in Arms)which includes a setting in German of  Edward Lichtenstein's poem Abschied as a recognition of the equal suffering of the German troops. (This will have its world premier performance on Saturday  12th July by the South West London Choral Society at St Anne's Church Wandsworth under the direction of Martin Everett.) It underwent some revisions in the light of world events and what Andrew knew about his own family's involvement in WW1

Andrew has a strong Glastonbury connection; his father taught at Millfield School, and was churchwarden at St Benedict's Church. Andrew was educated in Glastonbury and had his first experience of choral singing in St Benedict's.

It is especially fitting, therefore, that the first place in England that this work is performed will be Glastonbury.

So, welcome home, Andrew; we will do you proud.

A reminder about the details:

Date:     Sunday 6 July 2014
Time:    3.30 pm
Place:    The Abbey House, Chilkwell Street, Glastonbury

Tickets:  £10.00 to include cream tea (children under 15 £1.00)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Skylarks Song

Don't Stop Singing

When we were planning our Summer concert we found ourselves with an interesting dilemma.

The Summer concert is usually a lighthearted affair with part songs followed by a buffet or cream tea.

And 2014 is no different. However, this year sees the centenary of the start of WW1 and we wanted to acknowledge this without spoiling the mood of the concert.

WW1 was, as we all know, a catastrophic event in human terms. War poets described their experiences in a range of ways; how to find a theme that incorporated hope as well as a realisation of the magnitude of war?

We were very fortunate to stumble upon a setting of "In  Flanders Fields" by Lt John MacCrae. The setting is by Andrew Bunbury, a contemporary composer and is part of a larger work. Fittingly, the piece received its first airing in Amiens Cathedral in October 2013.
Amiens Cathedral Nave & Choir

Cantilena is proud to be giving the UK premier performance at its Summer concert.

The poem describes how the larks continued to sing throughout the fighting and we have taken birdsong as our theme, including Stanford's "Blue Bird" in our programme and other settings of other poetry written during the 2nd decade of the 20th Century.

Here are the details:

Date:      Sunday 6 July
Place:     The Abbey House, Glastonbury
Time:      3.30 pm
Price:      £10.00 to include cream tea

We will also be welcoming the Pilton Wind Group under the direction of Janet Witteridge.

More on this very soon. In the meantime, put the date in your diary!