History of I Cantori - Savannah's Premier Chamber Choir


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In December of 1991, with a concert of Christmas music, sixteen singers embarked on a journey which has continued for thirty-one years.  Founded by its current director, Dr. Robert L. Harris, the group has specialized in presenting concerts of diverse and unusual choral repertoire.

Over the years, I Cantori has presented such varied programs as a concert of music by Spanish composers, concerts of music by American composers, and two programs made up entirely of music by women composers. I Cantori has also presented a historically accurate performance of Handel’s Messiah, and a fully staged performance of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s beloved Christmas opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  I Cantori presented benefit concerts for the Lucas Theatre and Savannah’s public radio station WSVH, FM-91. On several occasions the choir joined with the Savannah Symphony on Masterworks concerts, and in January of 2006 they joined the Hilton Head Orchestra’s Beethoven Festival under the baton of Mary Woodmansee Green.  In addition, I Cantori has provided service music for the High Holy Days at Temple Mickve Israel for 24 years.

Because of a concern about the questionable quality of a great deal of the new choral music being published today, I Cantori has made a strong commitment to bringing newly composed choral music of high quality to the repertoire. To that end I Cantori has embarked upon an active program of commissioning new compositions by leading choral composers and making it available to the choral community through the I Cantori Series of choral music published by National Music Publishers.  Among the composers commissioned by the group are Daniel Pinkham, Peter Schickele, Williametta Spencer, James Mulholland, Vijay Singh, Robert Young, Vaclav Nelhybel, Bonia Shur, Randall Reese and Zdenek Lukas.  I Cantori has also premiered new choral compositions by Vera Kistler, Eugene Butler, Kevin Hampton and R. Gregory Canady.  With the exception of Nelhybel who had passed away prior to the premier of his composition, all of the composers came to Savannah to work with the group and attend the premier.

The Requiem setting by the leading Czech composer Zdenek Lukas was given its American premiere in 1993.  In 1995 the group premiered Four Fragments from John Donne by Daniel Pinkham, and in 1996 commissioned Williametta Spencer’s And the White Rose is a Dove.

Dr. Harris has also edited a number of works from the Italian Baroque which have received their first modern performance by I Cantori.  Among the composers who have received long awaited premiers are Alessandro Scarlatti, Nicola Porpora and Francesco Durante.  Newly available performance editions of five of the delightful Moravian duets by Antonin Dvorak and the English anthem written by Wolfgang Mozart at the age of nine also have been made available through newly prepared editions by Dr. Harris.  These works also appear in the I Cantori Series which now has more than 45 works in the catalogue.