Cantus Musicus

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Cantus Musicus, an international mixed chamber choir based in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian choral composer Yii Kah Hoe says it is the best choir in Malaysia.[1] It has received favourable comment from various musicians and singers, including leading British choral conductor and chorus master, Peter Broadbent, who conducted it in Kuala Lumpur,[2] Dr Michela Bertagnolli, Italian opera singer and judge of the SongFest Singing Competition 2004 in Malaysia,[3] the late Armando Chin Yong, Malaysia's top operatic tenor, Cha Seng Tiang,[4] one of Malaysia's better known operatic baritones,[5] Jangoo Chapkhana,[6] one of Australia's foremost choral conductors and Datuk Dr Kah-Ming Ng[7] of Oxford University, the founding member and Musical Director of renown Baroque ensemble Charivari Agréable.[8]

The choir is noted for its professional programming philosophy quite unexpected for its amateur status, its diverse international make-up and the fact that several of its principal singers have sung in some well-known choirs in the world or have studied under well known vocal coaches and opera singers.

History[edit]

Cantus Musicus was formed on 11 April 2003 [9] in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Lisa Ho and Glenis Butterworth. The original choir consisted of Lisa Ho as the Choral Director and accompanist on the piano and pipe organ, and 17 singers drawn from a much larger experimental choir intended to complement the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra but which had been disbanded. Glenis Butterworth coined the name "Cantus Musicus" which means "harmonious singing".[10] The choir's first public a cappella performance was two days later on 13 April 2003 at the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church,[11] Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Two choral works were sung – Lotti's Crucifixus a 8 in the original Latin and Tchaikovsky's Crown of Roses (in English).[12]

The choir remains to this day a strictly secular choir. Seven of the original singers are still with the choir. The choir which previously had as many as 56 singers has been deliberately trimmed to 36 permanent singers from 13 different countries. Lisa Ho is now the Music and Choral Director and Glenis Butterworth the Administration Director. The choir's Assistant Choral Director is Timothy Ooi.[13] The soprano section head is Sally Addington, the head of altos is Glenis Butterworth, Chen Lee Fong heads the tenor section and Jeffrey Bannister is in charge of the basses.

In August 2005, Cantus Musicus was requested to record a special CD entitled Cantus Musicus for the listening pleasure of Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood, the late wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, who was then undergoing cancer treatment in the United States of America. They also sang before the Prime Minister on 6 September 2005, after which the CD recording was presented to him.[14]

Selected members of the choir sang for the recording of the official anthem for the 11th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit backed by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in November 2005.

In November 2006, Lisa Ho and Janneke Bomhoff-Bos were invited to perform before the 12th Queen of Malaysia or Raja Permaisuri Agong, Her Royal Highness Tengku Fauziah binti Almarhum Tengku Abdul Rashid in a private royal function.

On 21 June 2008, Cantus Musicus had its Everything But The Diva! concert[15] to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the founding of the choir and also as a farewell concert for the outgoing German ambassador, His Excellency, Mr.Herbert Jess, who has been a staunch patron of Cantus Musicus. Mr. Jess made a surprise announcement at the end of the concert by giving an open invitation to Cantus Musicus to perform in Germany.

Cantus Musicus gave its first performance entirely in French (including dialects) on 31 March 2009 at the Francophonie event[16] marking a surprising departure from its regular association with German choral music.

A new chapter opened on 8 October 2009 with Cantus Musicus' first Irish concert, By The Salley Gardens[17] marking the choir's foray into Irish folk music and the use of Irish traditional instruments.[18] This was followed by the All Through The Night Celtic concert on 25 May 2010 which expanded on the Irish theme by including folk songs coming from or popular songs influenced by the three main Celtic areas of the British Isles: Ireland, Scotland and Wales.[19] This concert was also the farewell concert for the outgoing Irish Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Eugene Hutchinson.

The choir celebrated its 10th anniversary by performing César Franck's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Am Kreuz on 30 March 2013. This was also the Malaysian premiere of Franck's long lost sacred choral work.[20] Cantus Musicus was accompanied by pipe organ, harp, violins, violoncello and oboe.

20 October 2013 afternoon concert entitled Flowers, Dream and Fairy Tales, was given under the patronage of Her Excellency Mdm. Lyudmila G. Vorobyeva, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Malaysia, and the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Kuala Lumpur.[21] This concert was a major milestone marking Cantus Musicus' exploration of the extremely rich Russian (and Eastern European) choral repertory and introducing such a superb choral heritage to Malaysia for the very first time.

Policy[edit]

Cantus Musicus never charges its audience as part of its overall commitment to promoting the choral tradition in Malaysia and is probably the only secular choir in Malaysia to do so.[22] This choir receives no state funding and is completely self funded. Its loyal patrons and fans help secure free quality venues for its performances and assist in promoting the choir.

On 12 October 2009, Music Director Lisa Ho announced a new membership policy for the choir as part of the overall plans to improve the quality of the choir and to transform the choir into a semi-professional one. In February 2010 the choir was transformed into a trimmer 36-strong choir with several new singers joining.

Cantus Musicus is also strongly committed to developing choral singing in Malaysia and Music Director Lisa Ho actively participates in choral workshops[23] and festivals in Malaysia teaching school and youth choirs.[24] The choir has also given exhibition performances at choral festivals.[25] Lisa Ho, Janneke Bomhoff-Bos and Timothy Ooi are often called upon to serve as judges in local choral competitions.

The choir sings for the sheer pleasure of making good music and the fun of eating and drinking after the singing.[26]

Cantus Musicus is one of Malaysia's unofficial ambassadors of culture and goodwill and is welcomed at many of the embassies and diplomatic missions in Malaysia.

Repertoire[edit]

Cantus Musicus has a repertoire ranging from madrigals to sacred works, from lieder to gospel, from folk songs to symphonic choral works as well as good sampling of 20th and 21st century choral compositions, including original a cappella arrangements and compositions by Lisa Ho ranging from the original composition, Magnificat, premiered at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on 9 December 2007[27] to her 7-part choral arrangement of the traditional French folk song, L'amour de moi first heard during Francophonie on 31 March 2009 and her latest 8-part choral arrangement of Vince Clarke's hit song, Only You with its first public performance during the Festliches Weihnachtskonzert in Kuala Lumpur on 28 November 2009.[28]

Cantus Musicus are known to sing in 15 different languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, Swedish, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Dutch, Flemish, Latin, Greek and Malay[29] with a strong emphasis on English, German, Latin, Italian and French choral works.

The choir also has its integral group of musician-singers who play on old European instruments or clever adaptions of traditional Asian instruments to simulate old European instruments to accompany medieval songs. Cantus Musicus has been known to perform in period European costume.[30] Cantus Musicus was known for its madrigal concerts in its early years, the most popular being Mad as a Hatter – Spring Madrigals and other May Maladies held on 28 May 2005.[31]

Ensemble Cantus Musicus[edit]

The Ensemble Cantus Musicus is the expanded former Cantus Musicus Quartet which was formed for smaller, private performances focusing on art songs and for tour purposes. The Ensemble currently consists of 12 singers. The Ensemble Cantus Musicus would form the core of the tour choir.

Lieder[edit]

Cantus Musicus are among the main promoters of lieder or German art songs in Malaysia[32] and have given a number of lieder concerts and recitals ever since their first Liederabend concert in Kuala Lumpur in 2004.[33] For this and for the annual Weihnachtskonzert (German Christmas Concert), Cantus Musicus have been strongly supported by the German[34] and Austrian Embassies[35] in Malaysia, the German Speaking Society, Kuala Lumpur (GSSKL) and the Malaysian-German Society in the Malaysian state of Penang.

Known Cantus Musicus lieder concerts include Liederabend (June 2004), Liederabend im Penang (4 March 2006),[36] Love, Grief & Obsession – The Vision of the Herald & the Hawk (8 August 2006),[37] Leise Flehen Meine Lieder (21 May 2007)[38] and Hausmusik: Zu Gäste bei Clara und Robert Schumann (20 October 2010).[39]

The former Cantus Musicus Quartet have also given lieder recitals – one recital in 2005, two in 2006 (one of which was a farewell recital for Datuk Ooi Chean See, the former Resident Conductor of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra) and two more in 2007, the latest on 22 November 2007, Von ewiger LiebeOf Love Eternal, in conjunction with the launch of the publication, 50 Years Malaysian-German Relations: Portraits of Friendship – Then and Now[40] by Datuk Ahmad Shabery Chik (then Information Minister), at the German Ambassador's Residence in Kuala Lumpur.

Christmas concerts[edit]

Cantus Musicus are particularly noted for their annual Weihnachtskonzert (German Christmas Concert), and their Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which are performed annually in December. Since 2003, the choir has been performing the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 6.00pm on every second Sunday of Advent in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur. In the year 2017, Cantus Musicus will be performing the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on 3 December 2017 in Church of Councils Malaysia, Petaling Jaya at 6.00pm. Cantus Musicus are responsible for reviving and promoting the Festival as a popular traditional annual Christmas choral event in Kuala Lumpur.[41]

Cantus Musicus has been performing at Scandinavian Christmas celebrations for several years now and for the first time on 15 December 2009, the Ensemble Cantus Musicus sang in a Luciakonsert celebrating Luciatag or Saint Lucy's Day as part of the Swedish Embassy's Christmas celebration.

Music collaborations[edit]

Cantus Musicus has collaborated with members of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra String Section at the EUphoriA Concert on 26 May 2006 in conjunction with the European Union Delegation Celebrations headed by Austria.[42] Another collaboration was with the Encounter High Winds Ensemble (founded by Joost Flach[43] under the auspices of the Education/Outreach Department of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra) in a concert entitled Voices in the Wind on 30 April 2008.[44] On 6 December 2009, Cantus Musicus collaborated with the late tenor soloist, Armando Chin Yong, during the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.[45] Mr Chin was Malaysia's foremost operatic tenor and had sung in the opera houses of Europe and Asia. Noted Western Australian choral director and vocal coach, Jangoo Chapkhana was invited to guest conduct the choir at their In Voice and Verse concert on 29 October 2011 celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible combining choral singing, poetry recital and readings.[46] The latest collaboration is with Malaysia's top virtuoso concert pianist, Kenneth Teh Tien Huat, in an afternoon concert entitled Flowers, Dream and Fairy-Tales on 20 October 2013.[47]

Bel Canto[edit]

Music Director Lisa Ho is herself a coloratura soprano from the Italian bel canto (Italian for "beautiful singing") school of singing and is trained in bel canto vocal pedagogy. Her first vocal teacher was the Italian opera singer and pedagogue, Dr. Michela Bertagnolli Febvre, of Turin, who was trained by a pupil of Spanish coloratura soprano and pedagogue, Elvira de Hidalgo who also taught Maria Callas. Her most recent vocal coach was the late Armando Chin Yong who was trained by the legendary Tito Gobbi. Lisa Ho's personal goal is to introduce bel canto singing techniques to the choir and to promote the bel canto singing technique in Malaysia, especially in choral singing. Assistant Choral Director Timothy Ooi, a tenor who was taught by Arthur Reckless of London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama, was also undergoing re-training under the late Armando Chin Yong to convert to the bel canto method. Tenors Pieter Rebel, Chen Lee Fong and Lim Shimron are proper bel canto singers taught by maestro Armando Chin Yong and his star pupil, counter-tenor David Ngim respectively. Several other singers in the choir also belong to the bel canto school of singing.

Riddell-Eminent pipe organ[edit]

Cantus Musicus has been accompanied by various pipe organists playing the Riddell-Eminent pipe organ[48] in St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur, on a number of occasions. The Riddell-Eminent organ is a hybrid made up of components of the original 1939 Riddell organ married to the 1998 Eminent Omegan DCS 300/325 console. This was done by organ builder Mr Robert Navaratnam of Singapore (who also built the 9-rank Choir Organ in the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore). The original Riddell organ has a near twin in the 1938 Riddell organ installed at All Saints Church in Taiping, Malaysia. In 1939, Mr James A. Riddell, colonial Malaya's only organ builder, built the organ using local materials except for the 29 display pipes which were cast and milled in England. During the Second World War, the organ pipes were looted during the chaos following the abandonment of Kuala Lumpur to the advancing Japanese imperial army. In 1948, Mr. Riddell restored the pipes but this time using local materials.

Pianos[edit]

Cantus Musicus' preferred accompanying pianos are the Bösendorfer grand piano from Austria and the Kawai grand piano from Japan. For rehearsal purposes, the choir uses the K. Kawai from Japan.

In Memoriam[edit]

Contralto singer Joanne Toshack, 43, died on 31 December 2010 at Marsden in the United Kingdom.[49] The choir sang at her memorial service at ABWM House in Kuala Lumpur on 17 January 2011 and Lisa Ho's latest SATB arrangement of Abide with Me was premiered. They also sang Gabriel Faure's Requiem on 3 March 2011 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur, in Joanne's memory

Maestro Armando Chin Yong who taught 7 of Cantus Musicus' singers, died on 2 February 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, aged 52. Cantus Musicus sang a different interpretation of Faure's Requiem on 6 March 2011 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur, in the Maestro's memory. On 30 March 2013, the choir also sang César Franck's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Am Kreuz at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church in his memory.[50]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Interview with Yii Kah Hoe, a Malaysian choral composer on 30 April 2008
  2. ^ Choral Workshop with Peter Broadbent, 30 April 2005. Organised by The Philharmonic Society of Selangor.
  3. ^ Review of the Liederabend Concert on page 53 in the September 2004 issue of The Expat magazine
  4. ^ Kakiseni.com's Malaysian Online Arts Directory biographical write-up. http://www.kakiseni.com/directory/directory_body.php?peopleID=203&type=3&typeid=muss[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Interview with Cha Seng Tiang, a Malaysian operatic baritone on 6 December 2009.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 
  7. ^ http://www.morgensternsdiaryservice.com/WebProfile/ng_k_2770.shtml
  8. ^ http://www.charivari.co.uk/index.html
  9. ^ Website of German Embassy in Kuala Lumpur
  10. ^ Website of German Embassy in Kuala Lumpur
  11. ^ St Andrews Church, Kuala Lumpur
  12. ^ St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Palm Sunday Program, 13 April 2003
  13. ^ Timothy Ooi's biodata "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  14. ^ Performance on 6 September 2005 in Renaissance Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
  15. ^ Everything But The Diva! or The Best of Cantus Musicus concert at the German Ambassador's Residence, Kuala Lumpur, on 21 June 2008
  16. ^ Article entitled 'Coming together for language and music' on page 26, Malay Mail, 6 April 2009
  17. ^ By The Salley Gardens concert programme. Concert at the Irish Ambassador's Residence, Kuala Lumpur, on 8 October 2009
  18. ^ Article entitled "Irish music exalts" on page H29, New Sunday Times, 6 December 2009.
  19. ^ All Through The Night Celtic concert programme. Concert at the Irish Ambassador's Residence, Kuala Lumpur, on 25 May 2010
  20. ^ Programme booklet for César Franck's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Am Kreuz, sung at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on 30 March 2013.
  21. ^ Flowers, Dream and Fairy Tales concert programme produced by the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Kuala Lumpur, 20 October 2013
  22. ^ Article on the Liederabend concert in Penang on page 9, The Star (Northern Edition), 13 March 2006
  23. ^ Interview in Video Documentary on the 2nd Penang Choralffest (31 May to 2 June 2008)
  24. ^ Article on the 1st Penang Choralffest, New Sunday Times, 10 June 2007
  25. ^ Exhibition choir, 5th Young Singers Choral Festival, 30 May 2007 to 3 June 2007 at The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre
  26. ^ Article entitled "An Evening to Remember: Cantus Musicus" on page 40, Music! magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1, February–March 2004
  27. ^ The choral prelude Magnificat listed in The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Programme, 9 December 2007. Performed at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur.
  28. ^ Festliches Weihnachtskonzert Programme, 28 November 2009.
  29. ^ Article on the Liederabend im Penang concert in Penang reported on page 9, The Star (Northern Edition), 13 March 2006
  30. ^ Pomp and Circumstance Concert at the British High Commissioner's Residence in Kuala Lumpur on 6 May 2006
  31. ^ Two reviews on the Mad as a Hatter – Spring Madrigals and other May Maladies concert on pages 28 to 30, Music! magazine, Volume 3 Issue 3, June–July 2005
  32. ^ Acknowledgment by Dr Volker Wolf of the Goethe Institut, Kuala Lumpur in the programme of the Liederabend concert by Artist Platform, October – November 2007
  33. ^ Review of the Liederabend Concert on page 53 in the September 2004 issue of The Expat magazine
  34. ^ Leise Flehen Meine Lieder Konzert at the German Ambassador's Residence in Kuala Lumpur, 21 May 2007, Programme Notes
  35. ^ Article on the EUphoriA (European Union) Concert organised by the Austrian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, New Straits Times, 26 May 2006
  36. ^ Article on the Liederabend im Penang concert in Penang reported on page 9, The Star (Northern Edition), 13 March 2006
  37. ^ Love, Grief & Obsession – The Vision of the Herald & the Hawk at the German Ambassador's Residence in Kuala Lumpur, 8 August 2006, Programme Notes
  38. ^ Leise Flehen Meine Lieder Konzert at the German Ambassador's Residence in Kuala Lumpur, 21 May 2007, Programme Notes
  39. ^ Abendlieder at the German Ambassador's Residence in Kuala Lumpur, 20 October 2010, Programme Notes
  40. ^ http://www.kuala-lumpur.diplo.de/Vertretung/kualalumpur/en/06/downloaddatei__book,property=Daten.pdf
  41. ^ The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Programme, 10 December 2006. Performed at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur.
  42. ^ Article on the EUphoriA Concert at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre organised by the Austrian Embassy, Kuala Lumpur, New Straits Times, 26 May 2006
  43. ^ Joost Flach – Dutch Oboist Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  44. ^ Voices in the Wind programme booklet produced by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Kuala Lumpur, 30 April 2008
  45. ^ http://standrewschurch.org.my/
  46. ^ Concert programme of In Voice and Verse performed at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur on 29 October 2011
  47. ^ Flowers, Dream and Fairy Tales concert programme produced by the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, Kuala Lumpur, 20 October 2013
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  49. ^ News report entitled "Woman hit by train at Marsden is named" in The Huddersfield Daily Examiner,7 January 2011. http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/local-west-yorkshire-news/2011/01/07/woman-hit-by-train-at-marsden-is-named-86081-27944815/
  50. ^ Programme booklet for César Franck's Die Sieben Worte Jesu Am Kreuz, sung at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on 30 March 2013.