Cantamus through 50 years

1968 -The Choir, originally called the Cantamus Ensemble, was founded by Pamela Cook with 14 of her private pupils. After winning a local competition, one of the adjudicators urged her to enter international competition.

1970 -Freda White became the choir’s regular accompanist

1971 –Cantamus, now numbering 18 girls, competed in the Montreux International Choral Competition and won 2nd prize. Featured in a film made in the grounds of Welbeck Abbey, on release in ABC cinemas. They also produced their first vinyl.

1972 – In the Bela Bartok Contemporary Music Festival in Debrecen Cantamus won 1st prize, with an hour’s recital of British and Hungarian contemporary music. Won the Great Britain round of BBC Radio 3’s Let the People Sing Contemporary Music Class and went on to be international finalists in the competition.

1973 – Michael Neaum joined with Freda White as regular accompanist. Performed recitals at the Varna International Music Festival in Bulgaria. Sang at the official opening of the new theatre in Mansfield’s twin town Heiligenhaus and toured Germany. Appeared on BBC Songs of Praise from Bolsover Parish Church.

1974 – Toured Germany

1975 – Produced its second vinyl and gave recitals in Amsterdam. BBC Radio 3 broadcast a complete recital of music.

1976 – Ann Irons became a vocal tutor and Assistant Director with Michael Neaum as sole accompanist. Two further BBC Radio 3 broadcasts were made.

1977 – Made third vinyl with Osian Ellis (the Queen’s Harpist) and Michael Neaum.

1978 – Cantamus won both the 1st prizes (jury and audience) at the Montreux International Choral Festival. This double prize had only been won once before in 17 years. Appeared on BBC television.

1979 – Won 1st Prize, Miedzyzdroje International Choral Festival, Poland, with special citation “Never before equalled by any other choir”. Recordings of the choir were used to illustrate lectures on choral technique in the Warsaw Conservatoire. Pamela Cook was invited to adjudicate at the Festival in 1980.

1980 – Won 1st prize, Youth Class, at Llangollen Eisteddfod. Nottinghamshire County Council became major sponsors.

1981 – London debut in St John’s Smiths Square. “The most stimulating and regenerating concert of the month” (Hilary Finch, The Times) Premiered works by Michael Berkeley and Andrew Downes. Elaine Guy became the first ex Cantamus member to be appointed as a vocal tutor.

1982 – Cantamus produced its fourth recording with Rohan de Saram(cello) and Michael Neaum. Won 1st prize, Female Choirs class, in the Vienna Youth and Music Festival and the City of Vienna Prize for most outstanding choir in the Festival. Toured Holland and Germany.

1983- Cantamus sang in the Royal Festival Hall, London.

1984 – Pamela Cook was awarded the MBE for her services to music. Toured Holland again by invitation, for the third time. Appeared on Central TV.

1985 – Visited Southern German. Gave concerts in the White Palace, Stuttgart and in Heidenham. Gave a concert at the D H Lawrence Centenary celebrations in London.

1986 – Won Choir of the Year in the adult section of the BBC2 Sainsbury Choir of the Year Competition. Won 1st prize at the Montreux International Choral Festival. BBC Radio 3 broadcast concert performed with John Surman in London. The Cantamus Choral Series was published featuring arrangements by Michael Neaum.

1987 – Premiered Krishna and the Gopis by John Mayer which was televised and shown on Central TV and BBC2

1988 – Tour of Canada and the USA performing in Harvard and other Ivy League Universities

1990 – Pamela Cook was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music. Represented Great Britain at the World Conference of the International Society of Music in Education in Helsinki and performed in the Tampere Festival, Finland as well as performing in Tallinn, Estonia.

1991 – Performed in The Snowman and Granpa in The Barbican, London with Bernard Cribbins and the Wren Orchestra.

1992 – Toured Canada and the USA for the second time. Sang in the Opening Ceremony of Ameriflora ’92 where President George and Mrs Barbara Bush officiated.

The Training Choir was founded with Ann Irons as conductor and Joy Nicol as vocal tutor.

The main choir represented Great Britain in the European Choral Festival in Namur, Belgium.

1993 – The first CD Magic in the Air produced.

1994 – Represented the Country at the Kumamoto Youth and Music Festival in Japan. Won the Junior Section of BBC/Sainsbury Choir of the Year

1995 – Appeared on Blue Peter. Sang in the VE Day concert at The Coliseum, London, with Sir Harry Secombe, Joanna Lumley, Rowan Atkinson, Sir John Mills, Sir Michael Caine, attended by HRH Prince Charles. Toured Belgium in December. Won top female Choir at the Tolosa International Music Festival in Northern Spain.

1996 – Won the Grand Prix at the Riva del Garda International Choral Festival against 86 choirs of all types. Premiered Dover Beach in St Albans Abbey, a gift from Howard Goodall “in admiration and love”

1997 – Recorded second CD – Michael Neaum’s Arrangements sung by Cantamus. Mourned the sad death of Hilda Sansom, the long-time dressmaker for the choir.

1998 – Pamela Cook honoured by Birmingham Conservatoire with a Fellowship. Both the Main and Training Choirs won the top award Summa cum laude in the Neerpelt Youth Music Festival, Belgium. The Main Choir toured the Czech Republic. The Cantamus Website launched and managed by Marek Kuczynski.

2000 – Toured Israel- Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth. The Training Choir sang inn Carmina Burana in the Royal Albert Hall, London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis.

2001 – Launch of Warner Classics CD Aurora at the Planetarium, London. The CD reached 4th in the Classic FM chart. Appearances on Blue Peter and Calendar

2002 – Won first prize at Arezzo Festival and toured Tuscany. Wendy Cook, choreographer started work with the choir. Pamela Cook made Vice- President of the Association of British Choral Directors alongside John Rutter and Brian Kay.

2003 – Celebrated 35th Anniversary. Toured Provence performing 10 concerts in 10 days.

2004 – Won the Championship and 2 gold medals in the World Choir Olympics in Bremen, Germany.  Performed with Sir Willard White and the Halle Orchestra in the International Conference Centre, Harrogate.

2005 – Appeared in the BBC production of Flash mob The Opera set in Meadowhall, Sheffield with the BBC Concert Orchestra and transmitted live on TV. Concert in International Conference Centre, Harrogate with Sir James Galway and Judith Howarth. Recorded and released Cantamus CD on the EMI label. Performed at the Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration at the Houses of Parliament. Appeared on Richard and Judy, Channel 5 News, GMTV Breakfast Show, ITV News. Featured in Songs of Praise recorded in Thoresby Hall.

2006 – Sang in Classic Response, charity concert in the Royal Albert Hall presented by Aled Jones and Myleene Class with G4 and Julian Webber. Second concert in Royal Albert Hall for the spectacular Songs of Praise celebration show introduced by Aled Jones, with Katherine Jenkins and Hayley Westenra.

Won the championship and two gold medals in the World Choir Olympics held in Xiamen, China. Concerts in The Forbidden City, Beijing and in Shanghai. Philip Robinson joined the tour as accompanist.

Film of the tour – The Golden Girls – made by Graham Owens shown on BBC 1.

Mansfield District Council honoured choir, past and present, with the freedom of the town.

2007 – Farewell tribute concert to Michael Neaum who had served as accompanist for 35 years and arranged over 100 pieces for Cantamus. Philip Robinson became the sole accompanist. Toured to the Maasmechelen Festival in Belgium. Mounted the first of own concerts in the Royal Concert Hall for Christmas and performed to a capacity audience.

2008 – Main choir concert tour to Oviedo and Aviles, Spain. Took part in the Proms series performing in the Welsh Proms – St David’s Hall, Cardiff and then at The Royal Albert Hall, London with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Thierry Fischer.

40th Anniversary year celebrations in the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, with BBC Radio Nottingham

2009 – Won the overall prize for the top choir at The Voyage of Song Choral Competition, Penang Malaysia – 4 gold medals and three 1st prizes. Pamela Cook honoured with the Outstanding Conductor Award.

2010 – With much sadness Joy Nicol passed away in January of this year. Heart of Europe Choral Competition – gold medal and first prize in the secular music class.

2012 – Carrying on the tradition of ex Cantamus girls working with the choir, Louise Collett was appointed vocal tutor.

2013 – A black year for the Cantamus Family as we mourned the loss of our beloved founder, teacher and friend, Pamela Cook, days before the choir were due to participate in the first European Games in Graz, Austria. In honour of Pamela the organisers dedicated the competition to her memory. Ann Irons led the choir to success in the competition winning 2 gold medals and first prizes in equal voices and sacred music classes.

Freya Hales became vocal tutor and with Louise Collett took on the responsibility for the Training Choir. Steve Johnson took up the reigns of accompanist for the young choir.

Ashleigh Roberts took over the role of choreographer as we said goodbye to Wendy Cook.

2014 – Returned to the International Choral Festival in Riva del Garda where the choir were overall championship winners in the Equal Voices class with a gold medal and won the audience prize.

2016 – The Pamela Cook tour of Australia performing across three cities, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. The culmination of the tour being a performance in the iconic Sydney Opera House. Stefan Reid joined the choir as accompanist as Philip Robinson retired as sole accompanist for the main choir.

2016 – Cantus Amici formed in January for ex members of the main choir with their first concert in September at The Albert Hall, Nottingham.

2017 – Won three gold medals and one silver medal at the Grand Prix of Nations, the European Choir Games, Riga, Latvia. Participated for the first time in the jazz, pop and show class.

Performed Neptune from Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham.

2018 – 50th Anniversary celebrations.