Cadenza was founded in 1992, originally as a small chamber choir. Under Musical Directors Graham Lovett (1992-2000) and Jenny Sumerling (2000-), the choir has come to be regarded as one of Scotland’s finest and most exciting amateur mixed voice choirs, with members travelling from a wide area of central Scotland.
Now about 50-strong, and with a repertoire ranging from the Renaissance to the present day covering all styles – sacred, secular, folk and jazz, a selection of which can be found on its CDs – the choir has performed to critical acclaim throughout Scotland and beyond.
The Cadenza calendar centres on two annual fixtures. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Concert, performed in the atmospheric surroundings of the historic Greyfriars Kirk, is the largest concert of the year and includes a major choral work, accompanied by an orchestra and professional soloists. In recent years, the Fringe concerts have attracted capacity audiences or been completely sold out, attracting a series of positive and highly-rated reviews. The Christmas concert is generally a more light-hearted, festive event, with carols old and new, and an opportunity for some audience participation.
In addition, usually in the spring or early summer each year, Cadenza gives concerts in support of charities, providing an excellent opportunity for the choir to explore its lighter repertoire, while raising funds – many thousands of pounds over the years – for a wide variety of good causes both in the UK and overseas, such as Childline, CHAS, Edinburgh Erskine, Christian Aid, Chogoria Hospital (Kenya), Seeds of Hope (Romania), Scottish Love in Action (India), Mary’s Meals (Malawi) and the Vine Trust. In 2016, Erskine presented the choir with a medal as part of their 100 Heroes for 100 Years celebration. Awarded in Erskine’s centenary year, the medal was given to individuals and groups in recognition of their support for the charity over many years.
The annual programme has for some years also included a weekend workshop, when the choir can concentrate in more depth on specific aspects of our repertoire and choral singing in general than is possible during our weekly evening rehearsals. These have mostly been led by Cadenza’s Musical Director, but we have also been privileged to welcome some well-known and highly respected conductors and tutors, including the current National Youth Choirs of GB Director, Ben Parry (our Patron since 2003), the composer Ken Johnston, Joan Busby (singing teacher and founder of the Oxenfoord International Summer School), Edward Caswell (choral director and member of the Dunedin Consort), and renowned Choral Director and Britten expert, Paul Spicer.
Having first hit the headlines in the late 1990s after winning the Scotland and North England title of Choir of the Year twice in succession, Cadenza began to receive invitations to perform on radio, notably BBC Radio 4 Morning Services for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and Christmas Eve, and has since also been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Radio Scotland, and on Classic FM. The choir is now regularly invited to perform at prestigious events, such as headlining Historic Scotland’s Christmas Concert in Stirling Castle, featured choir at a national training workshop for the Association of British Choral Directors, and Paisley Choral Festival.
In 2010 invitations included Raymond Gubbay’s ‘Carols by Candlelight’ in both the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall for the second year running (see our news post for the conductor’s assessment of the choir’s performance, and our Reviews page for the opinions of the critics from The Herald and the Edinburgh Evening News in 2009), and premièring the finalists in Waverley Care’s international Christmas Carol Writing Competition. Hermione Roff, whose winning carol ‘The Virgin’s Song’ is included in Cadenza’s new CD, commented after the concert that “[the choir] gave truly memorable performances of all the carols”.
Commissions & Recordings
Cadenza is always keen to promote new music and, with the support of the Scottish Arts Council and Making Music, has been able to commission and perform new works by contemporary Scottish composers. These include ‘Three Chorales of Struggle’ by Eddie McGuire (1998), a suite of three Scottish songs, and ‘O Columba’ by Ken Johnston (2003), based on fragments from a 14th century manuscript found in Inchcolm Abbey. Cadenza was also involved through Making Music in the commissioning of Peter Maxwell Davies’ ‘The Kestrel Road’ (2005). In Autumn 2012 Cadenza launched Bright Star: Cadenza at Christmas , a CD of Christmas music mostly with a Scottish connection and all composed or arranged within the last 70 years, making it unique in the Christmas catalogue. The CD was very warmly received by reviewers, choral directors, composers and radio presenters, who praised many different aspects from individual tracks to it’s overall quality and appeal.