Founding Artistic directors often have a great sense of meaning behind how they name their organizations. However, for myself it happened rather spontaneously (if you know me well, you will know this to be right in line with how I travel through life…). Two weeks before the first concert I realized we needed a name. Minutes later, my husband googled "choral singing names" and came back to me with “Cantala” meaning “on wings of song”. I was desperate to get the poster printed for the concert, so I gave it no more than a moment’s thought and made it official. "Cantala" it was.
In the fall of 2008, I was newly graduated from UofT and was looking for choral opportunities. I had always had an interest in starting my own choir, but thought it would have come later in my life when I was more established in the musical community. However, when no choral jobs came my way that fall I decided to set out and create my own choir. I choose a women’s choir because I loved the equal voiced choral repertoire but more importantly, it is easier to find singers.
Officially first called the Cantala Women’s Ensemble we started out as a “project choir”. I managed to gather up 12 singers. Most were either friends of mine from school, students I taught or friends of friends who had heard I was starting a project choir. We rehearsed for 4-8 weeks at a time for 1.5 hours on a Sunday afternoon in West Toronto.
I remember this first choral project very well. We were learning the Ceremony of Carols by Britten and at the first rehearsal I had near perfect attendance. I was elated. It was a success! The following week nearly no one showed up. Of the three singers that did attend the second rehearsal (of 4 rehearsals total before the performance), two were brand new from the previous week and the other a beginning choral singer. They were discouraged, but I wasn't. Actually, I was having way to much fun to even think about giving up. Two more rehearsals later we ended up performing the work at an evensong Sunday service at the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto on Sunday December 14th, 2008 to great success.
Over the next three years, we moved around to new rehearsal spaces and finally landed at Forest Hill United Church in 2011. We branched out of treble choral literature and did many mixed voiced choral projects, performing Bach cantatas and highlights from Handel’s Messiah one winter.
The big change came in 2011 when I started to rehearse the same singers every week. I decided that I needed a weekly commitment to reach other goals I had set for Cantala such as participating in competitions, tours, and professional recordings. Since then we have participated at Sing! Toronto (2013), competed very successfully at local and provincial music festivals (2013, 2015, 2017), started our first professional recording (2017) and are now planning our first choir tour to New York City in April 2018 to sing with Eric Whitacre at Lincoln center.
This is an exciting time for Cantala. In 2016 we became a registered charity allowing us to be able to issue tax receipts for donations and apply for development grants. However, by far the biggest gift I have been given through these years is having found like minded passionate choral singers who want to belong to a musical home.... and I'm lucky they have chosen Cantala.