When I moved to London three years ago, I was looking for an opportunity to make great music with people my age. My friend had been a member of Cantus for a year and had mentioned how it was a fun choir that not only sang to a high standard but that also always made their own cakes for their concerts...! Seeing this as a great platform to share my award-winning lemon drizzle cake with the people of Greater London, I auditioned.
Am I glad I did.
Over the past three years, I've had some truly amazing experiences with Cantus, including the chance to sing a number of iconic works, from the Rachmaninov Vespers to Macmillan's Seven Last Words from the Cross (along with the Southern Sinfonia). I think my favourite piece was the Brahms Requiem. The work is not only highly emotive, but being accompanied by a piano duet rather than a full orchestra created a beautifully intimate performance.
Last term's composition competition was also something completely new for the choir. All four of the short-listed pieces were of a very high standard, and it was humbling to think we were performing them as World Premieres. Working with composers who can actually listen and interact with you is a rare experience, and getting their feedback was invaluable, turning the learning process into more of a partnership.
We're only four weeks into rehearsals for our next concert on 14th November, and already I can't wait to perform the music. Parry's Songs of Farewell are intricate pieces, for which you need to be fully aware and sensitive to the parts around you. In rehearsal last week, we decided to sing "My Soul, there is a Country" but this time mixing up the voice parts (as a tenor, for example, I was standing between an alto and a bass). Even though we had only rehearsed the piece a couple of times, you could feel us truly connecting, not just between our parts, but with every other member of the choir. The result was electric.
The Duruflé Requiem is another piece I had never had the chance to perform before, but I am a big fan of 20th Century French music, so I knew I would fall in love with it. And it hasn't disappointed. Inspired by Gregorian Chant, the lyrical passages accompanied by evocative harmonies are a pure joy to sing. November's concert will be quite something.
Now, as I explained earlier, one (unofficial) requirement of being a member of the Cantus Ensemble is being able to whip up a cake at short notice for hungry audience members. Below you'll find my foolproof recipe for lemon drizzle cake - it's a complete doddle and a big crowd pleaser! Enjoy!
125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
and for the syrup:
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
100g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C / gas mark 4, and line and grease your loaf tin
Cream together butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs and lemon zest
Fold in the flour and salt, then add the milk
Spoon into loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes
Meanwhile, heat the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves
As soon as the cake is cooked, puncture the top all over and pour the syrup over it
Leave it to soak up the syrup until cold