Cantemus Chamber Choir, based in Cardiff, is fast establishing a reputation as one of the country’s finest choirs, with a wide-ranging repertoire stretching from the Renaissance to the present day. Its conductor is Huw Williams, Director of Music at Bath Abbey, and its President is James Bowman. The choir habitually works with instrumentalists and soloists of national and international repute. These include His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, Baroque ensembles Réjouissance, Canzona and the Bristol Baroque Band, as well as noted singers such as James Bowman, Rebecca Evans and Elin Manahan Thomas. Cantemus tours regularly and has visited Paris, Norway, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands in recent years. It has also sung services at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and St Paul’s Cathedral.
“The choir was thrilling” – Elin Manahan Thomas
With its clean, precise and blended sound, Cantemus is particularly acclaimed for its stylish interpretations of Baroque music. In December 2014, the choir was invited to perform Handel’s Messiah in Buckingham Palace alongside the choir of the Chapel Royal, St James’ Palace, receiving a standing ovation. A repeat performance of the work in Cardiff in December 2015, with Elin Manahan Thomas as featured soloist, was similarly well received. Over the past few years, Cantemus has also been highly commended for its performances of Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Bach’s Motets, B Minor Mass, St John Passion and St Matthew Passion. Reviewing the choir’s performance of Mozart’s Requiem and Mass in C Minor in March 2016, the Western Mail commented that “the performance belonged to the choir….Mozart’s God-given genius shone through.”
Alongside Baroque repertoire, Cantemus has won praise for its recent performances of Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Poulenc’s Gloria and Stabat Mater, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and the Widor and Martin mass settings for double choir. The choir’s busy concert diary regularly features music by contemporary composers including Eric Whitacre, James MacMillan and Giles Swayne, as well as works by Welsh composers such as William Mathias, Thomas Tomkins and Paul Mealor.
“beautifully performed…depth and clarity to the singing” – Western Mail
Cantemus’s growing reputation has led to it being featured on national television and radio, and it is frequently invited to perform at classical music festivals. Recent highlights include an appearance on the BBC’s primetime The One Show performing Thomas Tallis’s 40-part motet, Spem in Alium; a performance that prompted the presenter, Gyles Brandreth, to declare that the work was “devilishly hard to perform as well as this.” In 2015, the choir appeared in a special edition of BBC Radio 3’s In Tune as part of the coverage of Cardiff Singer of the World, where its singing was praised by soprano Rosemary Joshua as “absolutely beautiful…gorgeous” and by presenter Sean Rafferty as having “a great deal of polish.” Cantemus has also featured on BBC Radio 2, Classic FM, and Radio 4’s Sunday Worship.
In summer 2016 Cantemus took part in the annual Incorporated Association of Organists Festival, giving a well-received performance of British choral works to a capacity audience in Bath Abbey. The choir has also performed at the St David’s Festival, where it gave the world premiere of a major new work by Giles Swayne, and at the Sacred Site and Sound Festival at Tintern Abbey, where the choir’s singing was described as “extraordinarily beautiful.” Cantemus has also acted as choir-in-residence at the prestigious international choral conference, chor.com, in Dortmund, where it worked alongside Simon Halsey in a series of masterclasses and broadcast live on German radio.
“a choir of many assets…a spirited, vivacious sound” – Seen and Heard International
Plans for 2017 include a concert of music from the Chapel Royal at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in March, and a tour to Westminster Abbey in August. Later this year Cantemus will release its third CD, a selection of choral music with connections to the Celtic nations, on the Regent Record label. This follows on from the success of its previous recording, Nativity, which received much critical acclaim and extensive airplay on national radio. Its first CD, The Contingent World – a collection of music composed for the choir by Ian Lawson and Ben Heneghan – was released in 2007.
Originally formed in 1993 from a nucleus of keen a cappella singers, and directed by Robert Court between 1998 and 2010, Cantemus will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018.