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Schola Cantorum of Oxford

 Schola Cantorum of Oxford

Mixed Choral Chorus from Oxford, UK, England.

Schola Cantorum is Oxford University's longest-running chamber choir, and one of the most long-established and widely known chamber choirs in the UK. It was founded in 1960 by the Hungarian dissident Laszlo Heltay as the Collegium Musicum Oxoniense. Over the last four decades many of the choir's former members have become involved in professional music at the highest levels. Former singers include Emma Kirkby and Jane Glover, while Andrew Parrott, Stephen Cleobury, and Ivor Bolton are among the choir's former conductors. Schola Cantorum's patrons have been Sir Michael Tippett and Lord Yehudi Menuhin, and for specific projects the choir has worked under Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Leonhardt, Sir Colin Davis, and Sir Neville Marriner as well as Benjamin Britten, Tippett, and Igor Stravinsky in performances of their own music. Current distinguished patrons of the choir include Emma Kirkby (a former member), John Mark Ainsley and the choir's former conductor Andrew Parrott. Schola Cantorum is comprised of around thirty singers, most of whom sing with the choir while they are students at Oxford University. Studying a wide range of academic subjects including music, the choir members rehearse during university term-times, perform regularly in Oxford and give concerts all over the UK.

Since 1990 Schola Cantorum was conducted by Jeremy Summerly under whom the choir has released many recordings and has toured extensively, both in UK and abroad. In 2002, James Burton was appointed Music Director of Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and since then has conducted the choir in concerts all over the UK and on prestigious and ground-breaking tours of Mexico (twice) and Argentina. Schola Cantorum of Oxford is committed to presenting the passion of its young singers for their music in an innovative and memorable way. The choir's energetic approach to both rehearsal and performance allows Schola to tackle unique provocative programmes of music.

The Schola Cantorum has developed a formidable international reputation, and in recent years has given concert tours of Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Israel, Spain and France. In September 2006 Schola returned to Mexico to open the Cervantino Music Festival in Guanajuato. Schola is the first English choir to have toured extensively in Mexico (2004) and Argentina (2005), appearing on national television and radio in both countries, performing at festivals and collaborating with local groups. The choir performed at the opening concert of the Roma Europa Festival (2005) at the Quirinale Palace to mark Britain's presidency of the EU, in Spain (2002) at the Santander International Festival, and in Japan, where Schola won first prize at the Takarazuka Chamber Choir Competition. The trip to Mexico in 2006 included didactic concerts with school children, a collaboration with OFUNAM, one of Mexico's leading orchestras, and performances in Mexico's major concert hall, the Sala Nezahualcoyotl. In 2007 they became the first choir from a British university to tour in China, giving concerts in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing and the new Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai. In 2008 they appeared as guest artists at the 43rd International Festival Wratislavia Cantans in Wroclaw, Poland.

In Spring 2006 Schola gave two performances of Georg Frideric Handel's dramatic oratorio Israel in Egypt. Taking soloists from the choir and performing in two prestigious venues, the Sheldonian and St James's Piccadilly, with an orchestra drawn from some of England's finest professional Baroque specialists, this was the perfect showcase for Schola's young talent.

Over recent years Schola has maintained its history for tackling wide-ranging and challenging repertoire. This stems from both the work of more familiar composers such as Tallis, Strauss and Scarlatti, whose works often challenge ensemble and interpretation, to more modern composers such as Macmillan, Schnittke and Williams whose compositions necessitate great energy and versatility as well as vocal dexterity. Schola also aims to perform a wide variety of music from many different countries and cultures. Recently the choir has performed works in Mandarin, Estonian, Hungarian, Russian and Spanish.

Schola Cantorum has a long recording history, and has frequently appeared on radio and television in the UK and abroad. On June 21, 2006 Schola performed The Oxford Blues Service, a commission jazz setting of the service of Evensong by Roderick Williams which they performed live on BBC Radio 3. This piece provides both singers and audience to experience a new perspective on church music, as well as building on Schola's tradition of working with eminent composers, who have in the past included I. Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Tippett, and more recently Roxanna Panufnik and Per Norgaard. Schola is keen to cultivate young compositional talent and in 2006 they performed choir member Jonathan Bridcut's Why do you stand far off?, written in memory of the London bombings of June 2005. The Oxford Blues Service was followed by A jazz Matins service in 2007 which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. In 2008 the choir featured in John Bridcut's BBC film The Passions of Vaughan Williams in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the composer's death.

In October 2008 Hyperion Records released a CD recording by Schola Cantorum, to universal critical acclaim. Recorded in the Chapel of Exeter College, Oxford, the CD features works by the American composer Randall Thompson, centring on his sequence of sacred choruses with texts from Isaiah, The Peaceable Kingdom.


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Schola Cantorum of Oxford : Children of Our Time : 00  1 CD : Jeremy Summerly : Michael Tippet : 034571175751 : CDA67575

Schola Cantorum of Oxford : Children of Our Time

Review: In 1978 Schola Cantorum of Oxford-the university's acclaimed chamber choir-recorded Tippett's Five Negro Spirituals from A child of our time. Sir Michael wrote, in his sleeve note accompanying the LP release on L'Oiseau Lyre (DSLO 25, re-issued on CD Belart 461 628-2, no longer available): 'I had never heard the complete set till the recording sessions. I then realised that the sound of these songs when sung thus is quite different from their original settings in the oratorio. They became, as it were, the huge voice of a crowd of folk singing together. It should be clear from the above account of all the variety of pieces on this (all-Tippett) disc how remarkable and resilient a group of young singers the Schola Cantorum of Oxford is, under their equally young, gifted conductor Nicholas Cleobury.' Some twenty years later, under Jeremy Summerly, the choir was asked to make a new recording of the Spirituals to mark the ninetieth birthday of the composer, by then the group's long-standing Patron. This new disc-never previously released-is the result of those sessions, where the Tippett works are complemented by recordings of the winning entries in an international composition competition organized by the choir and other works written for it around the same time. And what an astonishing display of choral pyrotechnics this produced. From the seductive intricacies of Mark Edgley Smith's E E Cummings settings, through the blues-infused harmonies of Antony Pitts's polychoral Thou knowest my lying down, to the extended genius of Francis Pott's Amore langueo (containing what Summerly describes as 'one of the great moments in English choral music from any period'), this new disc offers fascinating discoveries to the choral aficionado and seventy minutes of the very finest choral experience to all. All works, apart from the Tippett and Pitts, are first recordings.

Songlist: Thou Knowest My Lying Down, Steal Away, Ave Verum Corpus, Nobody Knows, Echo, Song, Mirage, Go Down Moses, Now I Lay (With Everywhere Around), Spring! May, Love Is More Thicker Than Forge, O By The By, What A Proud Dreamhorse, By And By, Eres, Deep River, Amore Langueo

6188c | 00 1 CD | $19.95 English Choral CDs

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