Recently, I've found that whenever I have "big news" to share with friends & family, more often than not it's something do with Cantus. That then made me want to reflect on my history as a member of this awesome group of people and what I consider to be my Top 10 Cantus Moments.
So, here goes...
1. Beating Bocelli in the Classical Singles Charts
After much to-ing and fro-ing, I think this has to be the biggest highlight for me so far. Seeing the Cantus Ensemble name above Bocelli and sitting firmly at No. 3 next to Einaudi in the iTunes Classical Singles Charts was a truly incredibly moment.
2. Being played on Classic FM (multiple times!)
Hearing the dulcet tones of John Suchet mention our name on Classic FM while colleagues crowded around my desk to listen in on our performance of Rebecca Dale's "When Music Sounds" is something I shall certainly never forget... (nor the equally dulcet tones of Aled Jones later that week, of course.)
Not only did Classic FM receive lots of texts from their audience (not that any of us were responsible...), but we were bowled over by the reaction on Social Media, with over half a million impressions for Cantus Ensemble on Twitter that day alone! Pretty amazing.
3. Recording at Abbey Road Studios
You could argue that 1, 2 and 3 are basically an all-in-one incredible moment, but I wanted Abbey Road to be a Top Moment in itself. To walk up beyond the grafittied walls and angry drivers waiting at the famous Zebra crossing, to walk through the platinum-record-clad halls and record in the same vast room as the Beatles, David Bowie, Hans Zimmer, John Williams as well as a whole other string of Musical Greats, was something I could definitely tick off the bucket list.
4. Performing on ITV
It's not every day you settle down on the sofa with a glass of wine, turn on the TV and hear Bradley Walsh introduce you as you sing "Time to Say Goodbye" with an up-and-coming "Street Soprano". Not only was it an incredible experience and eye-opener for how TV actually works, but we also got to eat dinner with bizarre Japanese comedy duo Gamarjobat, have a dressing room right next door to Christopher Biggins, and some of us even got to have selfies with "Mysterious Girl Dreamboat" Peter Andre himself (I myself managed to walk past him without realising who he was. Until it was too late. A TERRIBLE moment.)
5. Singing in the Basilica of La Sagrada Familia (and all of the Barcelona tour, to be honest.)
It's not often you get to sing in one of the world's most famous architectural wonders, in fact it's very rare for choirs to be able to sing in La Sagrada Familia at all. So when we were invited for a private tour around the astonishing Cathedral after singing Mass the night before, as well as being presented the opportunity to sing in the Basilica itself, I don't think there was a single one of us that didn't walk away feeling totally overwhelmed.
I have also never been a tour when I have laughed SO much. I had stomach cramp for a week. Excellent, excellent tour.
6. Slovenia Tour
Speaking of Tours, Slovenia just has to make it in the Top 10. What an unbelievable country... one minute, we were drinking cold beers on snow capped mountains, the next we were trekking along an azure-lined gorge, another short ride away and we were eating ice creams on the harbour overlooking the coasts of Croatia and Italy...
Lake Bled was also an incredible sight to see, and we were amazed to see how many people had driven all the way to the church to hear us sing a concert of Bach, Parry and Moses Hogan. (Turns out Slovenians LOVE spirituals! Who knew.)
Oh, and my team won the Cantus Challenge. An awesome moment in itself.
7. Singing at Westminster Abbey
To welcome in 2016, the Cantus crew headed to Westminster Abbey bright and early to sing a full day of services. We quickly forgot about our New Year hangovers and ended up revelling in the magic of singing in one of the world's most iconic Abbeys. Singing Dove's "Seek him that maketh the seven stars" was by far the greatest highlight for me.
8. 12 Days of Christmas
"A Cantus Christmas" is always our sellout concert, and quite rightly so when the Cantus boys sing "12 Days of Christmas". Just an absolute corker. Has me cracking up EVERY time they sing it.
9. Songs of Farewell
It was on the evening of November 13th that Paris was suddenly thrown into chaos and darkness. What happened that evening shocked the world. On the evening of November 14th, Cantus came together to live out Leonard Bernstein's promise:
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
And did we. This was quite possibly the most moving and memorable concert I've performed with Cantus to date.
On May 28th, Cantus headed down to Portsmouth for the first round of BBC Choir of the Year. Given this was our first ever competition, I think there were mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension as we weren't 100% sure what to expect. After watching a variety of colourful, choreographed choirs, we were starting to get nervous... But as we walked on stage and opened our folders, we bursted open with Eric Whitacre's "With a Lily in your hand", followed by an un-conducted Australian folksong and ended with a moving rendition of Parry's "My soul, there is a country".
After Livvy showed her bungalows to the room (don't ask), the judges finally walked on stage to announce who would be going through to national selection.
"First choir to go through is... Godwine Choir! Congratulations!"
"And the second choir to go through..... The Cantus Ensemble!"
*MASSIVE APPLAUSE, WHOOPS & CHEERS*
Not only were we through to national selection, but we were also awarded "Choir of the Day"! All in all, an amazing moment.
And that's it! There are many, many other incredible moments I could recount here, which just come as part and parcel of being a Cantus member...
Perhaps next year I can write another list?