In 1979 a handful of friends, a number just enough to guarantee the functioning of a four-voiced mixed choir, formed a small vocal ensemble wishing to make music together. The choir, Gruppo Vocale Cantemus (Cantemus Vocal Ensemble), was first directed by Cécile Riva, followed by Diego Fasolis. The arrival in 1996 of the director Luigi Marzola, a professional musician trained at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan (where he now teaches), represents an important moment in the history of the ensemble. A further important step for the choir was the arrival of Dan Shen, soprano, who started coaching the individual singers as well as the whole choir, helping them to adapt their voices to the requirements of a varied repertoire. Her voice workshop is enthusiastically followed by many singers. Although most choir members are non-professionals, the ensemble produces music at a high level. The Cantemus' concerts are highly appreciated by public and press alike. The choir is neither politically nor religiously bound and consists of members of various ages and professions, tied together by a common passion for singing.
The repertoire of Cantemus is very varied, encompassing together repertoires form different ages and places. Soome of the most important works performed are: Johannes Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer; Contino's Missa Congratulamini Mihi (first performance in modern times); Carissimi's Jephte Oratory; Scarlatti's 10-voice Stabat Mater; Francis Poulenc's Gloria. Cantemus has also performed numerous motets and isolated compositions by Heinrich Schütz, Cavalli, Carissimi, Scarlatti, F. Poulenc, Fauré and Felix Mendelssohn.
Cantemus is often invited to participate at performances together with the choir of the RSI (Radio della Svizzera Italiana, “Radio of Italian-speaking Switzerland”) especially during the Good Friday concerts at Lugano Cathedral. Works performed together with the Coro della Radio Svizzera were: Mendelssohn's Psalm 115; Bach's Matthew Passion (BWV 244); Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri; Verdi's Quattro Pezzi Sacri; Mozart's Coronation Mass; Haydn's Mass in b-flat (Theresienmesse); Requiems by J. Brahms, Cherubini, Fauré, Franz Liszt, Mozart and Gossec. These concerts were directed by world-famous directors, such as Diego Fasolis, Andreae, Baudo, Carthy, Campori, Andrew Parrot, Helmuth Rilling, Mazzola. The last work performed was Bloch’s Sacred Service. Cantemus also participates with the Choir and Orchestra of the Conservatory of Italian-speaking Switzerland at the traditional Christmas concerts. In September 2002 Cantemus received the 3rd prize in the category “elite choirs” at the Swiss Choir Competition in Vevey. The choir is also active in Italy as a regular guest at the International Festival of Sacred Music in Brescia. In November 2002 it took part at the Festival Lodoviciano in Viadana.
Cantemus has participated at recordings by the RSI Choir of the Requiems by Gossec and Cherubini, Donizetti’s Parisina, Bach’s Matthew Passion (BWV 244), Soliva’s La Testa di Bronzo.