Now in its 49th season, Cantata Singers offers New England audiences a range of musical programming that has consistently been recognized as engaging, nuanced and penetrating by listeners and media alike. Cantata Singers was founded in 1964 to perform and preserve the cantatas of J.S. Bach, and Bach’s music continues to be at the heart of all that the organization does. But over the past four decades Cantata Singers’ repertoire has expanded to embrace musical offerings from the 17th to the 21st Century, including performances of semi-staged operas and an acclaimed series of seasons centered on a single composer - Kurt Weill, Benjamin Britten, Heinrich Schütz and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Through all of these explorations, J.S. Bach and the thought behind his rich creativity have remained the touchstone of Cantata Singers.
Cantata Singers’s Chorus comprises 44 professional volunteer singers; with its orchestra, it presents a season of four main programs in the Boston and Cambridge area, all under the music direction of David Hoose.
Former Cantata Singers music directors have included Leo Collins, John Harbison, Philip Kelsey and John Ferris, and distinguished guest conductors have included Craig Smith, Joseph Silverstein, Blanche Honegger Moyse, Benjamin Zander, and Earl Kim. Under Music Director David Hoose’s baton, the organization has given acclaimed performances of J.S. Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244), Saint John Passion (BWV 245), Mass in B minor (BWV 232), and many cantatas; Haydn’s The Creation and The Seasons, the Johannes Brahms, Fauré, Mozart and Verdi requiems; George Frideric Handel’s Belshazzar, Israel in Egypt, Messiah and Jeptha; Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Oedipus Rex, Mass, and Symphony of Psalms.
The organization has commissioned twelve choral-orchestral compositions, the first of which, John Harbison’s The Flight Into Egypt, won the 1987 Puliter Prize for Music. Three of these commissions centered on the issue of slavery—Donald Sur’s Slavery Documents, T.J. Anderson’s Slavery Documents 2, both based on original writings about American slavery, and Lior Navok’s The Trains Kept Coming….Slavery Documents 3, based on original documents, official communications and personal letters concerning the Allies’ refusal to bomb the railroad tracks that led to the concentration camps. Cantata Singers has recorded the works of Bach, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky, as well as Irving Fine, David Chaitkin, Seymour Shifrin, John Harbison, Peter Child, and Charles Fussell. In 1995, the organization was awarded the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.
Cantata Singers also runs a unique music education program in the Boston Public Schools, “Classroom Cantatas,” a residency program that introduces students of all ages to the fundamentals of song writing and performance preparation. The teaching artists of Cantata Singers guide the students to work together as a team, nurturing creativity and instilling confidence, discipline and freedom of expression, culminating in a public performance at the end of each school year.