CantateDirector, Nicholas Shaw

Cantate is widely recognised as one of the outstanding open-access choirs in the UK and accepts all students without audition and regardless of their previous experience or ability. For 21 years it has promoted musical excellence from its base in Bishops Stortford to students aged 8-18 and within a three choir structure challenges its members to perform in a huge range of musical styles to the very highest standards. This was cemented last summer when Cantate returned from the World Choir Games in Latvia as double gold medal winners and as the highest place European mixed-voice youth choir in the competition, an extraordinary achievement when less than 10% have any formal vocal tuition outside of the choir.

Unique for a youth choir all members of Cantate are given percussion and rhythm work as a crucial part of their education in the choir, starting with simple Samba and moving to complex presentations of rhythm and movement that are a feature of many of the concerts. Cantate has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, both in the BBC and Schools Prom Concerts, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican, 10 Downing Street and sings the annual family carol service at St Paul’s Cathedral. It is regularly invited to perform in Festivals around the UK including the Brandenburg Choral Festival (Vivaldi’s Gloria, 2011) and the Thaxted Festival (Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, 2013). Cantate has appeared on BBC Songs of Praise and BBC Radio 2, and has worked and recorded under conductors including Sir Andrew Davis and John Rutter. Regular tours to Europe have been a feature of Cantate’s calendar for many years, with the choir performing to packed churches in France (Bordeaux and Paris) and Italy (Assisi and Venice).

Cantate was founded by Michael Kibblewhite in 1994 and has been led by the joint team of Nicholas Shaw and Graham Instrall since 2010. As an independent charity it relies on subscriptions, sponsorship, grants, donations and a huge team of voluntary help to allow as many people as possible to experience the thrill of singing with the choir. There is also a well-established bursary fund to so that the choir’s open-access ethos is as wide open as possible. It is proud to have the active support of three honorary patrons: Baroness Genista McIntosh, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe and ‘virtuoso of the arts’ Matthew Sharp.