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For Singers Interested in Joining
Collegium Cantorum
("A Company of Singers")

Welcome We are always interested in meeting new singers who are skilled in reading music (in modern notation) and are interested in "early-music-style" ensemble singing, so we welcome your interest and thank you for investigating the possibility of joining us.

Please read the page "about Collegium Cantorum" if you haven't already; what follows (below) assumes familiarity with that page. If this page doesn't put you off or scare you away, and you're still interested when you finish reading it, please contact us.

Ars gratia artis
(or "Doing it for love")
Because our performances are presented free to the public, our work is generally a pro-bono "labor of love", although many of the singers are professional musicians.* It occasionally happens that voluntary contributions from audiences are large enough to permit small stipends for the singers, but this is never predictable and stipends are never large in any case. So continue reading if you're interested in "doing it for love"; you'll be in good company.

On the subject of "good company", it must be noted that part of "doing it for love" is coming to rehearsals on time and well prepared, or in other words, showing serious respect for (and never wasting) the time of one's fellow singers.

While our finances do not often permit singers to be financially compensated for their "labor of love", or even to be reimbursed for travel to and from rehearsals and concerts or for individual concert dress, neither are they expected to pay dues or fees of any kind. Our "concert-dress understanding" is generally easy-going and intended not to require expenses out of the ordinary for choral singers.

As noted in the "about" page, we present music which is "off the beaten path", but this does not mean "obscure for its own sake": the works we perform deserve to be much better known, not to languish in obscurity because of musical "marketing timidity". One intention is to leave listeners wondering why they have never heard some of these works before, and to judge from numerous audience comments over the years, we have often done so. Unfortunately, the "down side" of the effort to bring great music out of obscurity is that we often perform to small audiences; Busnoys's music may more exciting than that of Brahms, but this is unlikely to be reflected in audience sizes in our lifetimes. Those who have attended our concerts, though, have told us many times that they were quite glad they did. This is a trade-off we willingly make.

* Note: Sometimes, though rarely, paid "outside professionals" are hired, at negotiated fees, in cases of illness striking one or more of the regular, pro-bono singers, or other emergency.

Be aware that much medieval and Renaissance polyphony is challenging, often just-plain-flashy-and-difficult music. Such more-modern difficulties as "weird intervals" and vocal "gymnastics" like extremes of range, etc., are rare (though not unheard-of), but the modal nature of the music can take some getting-used-to, and the rhythmic complexity of much of it is quite demanding. What it demands is a serious amount of study, practice, and preparation in advance of rehearsals..

It follows that certain minimum skills are essential, broadly categorized as music-theoretical, vocal, and language-related. Taking these in order:

Music-theoretical (i.e., reading skills): While it is not necessary to be a "crack sight-singer" to the point where one could sing, say, a difficult passage of Stravinsky at first sight, it is necessary to be comfortable with pitch intervals to the point of being able to read basic ones (3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, etc.) reliably. Further, it is necessary to understand the time-values of notes to the point of being able to follow a conductor, and to "dissect" complex rhythmic passages in order to mark where the beats are when this is not obvious (and see above regarding preparation in advance of rehearsals).

Vocal: This is a difficult topic to discuss; it is helpful (but not required) to have had some kinds of vocal training, but not all kinds. Choral experience is often more valuable than solo-vocal training. It is necessary either to have or to develop an understanding of what "early-music-style singing" is, to be able to sing without vibrato or "wobble", to blend with other voices, to understand (or learn) at least the fundamentals of vowel-production and "forward" singing, and to have sufficient eye-ear-voice coordination to "stay on pitch". These abilities come naturally to some people, but for most of us, at least some training and/or experience is required.

Language-related: It is not necessary to be able to translate any foreign language, though it sometimes (depending on the historical period) helps to understand what one is singing. Translations of foreign-language texts are provided for the singers' information.
          It should be noted, though, that by far, the majority of the works we perform are in medieval Latin, and that the pronunciation we use is that of "Italianate" or "Church" Latin (which resembles that of modern Italian). Singers who are not familiar with this pronunciation will need to learn it; it is not difficult and can be picked up in rehearsals or by (minimal) private tutoring from the director.
          Other languages in which we occasionally sing will include French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English (all in archaic, pre-1601 forms); group coaching in these languages by the director or other (more qualified) person will accompany their use.
          Use of any other language will be quite rare.

Rehearsals and
We usually perform with 2 or 3 singers per part, only occasionally with more or fewer. Solo work, when it occurs, is generally shared out evenly among the group members.

For the complex, demanding programs we present, we generally rehearse 6 to 8 times (including the dress rehearsal) per program, sometimes less but rarely more. It follows that singers are expected to prepare and practice in advance, and to attend rehearsals punctually. Note that as a rule, we do not do group warm-ups. Singers are expected to do their own warm-ups, before or en-route to rehearsals ("that's why God created cars", as it has been said), arriving well before the start of rehearsals, if necessary, to do so.

Singers are expected to understand that absences from rehearsals cause serious hardship both to the individual singer and (because of its small size) to the entire group, and to miss rehearsals only in cases of illness or injury, unavoidable employment-related schedule conflict, and/or serious personal or family emergency. Collegium Cantorum has always been accommodating of such cases, even to the point of cancellation of concerts in severe instances, but a small choir can only function if the commitment by each individual singer is reliable. Individual outside-rehearsal practice is a prerequisite, never a substitute, for rehearsals.

Music is distributed approximately one month before the first rehearsal for a program. A schedule showing which pieces will be covered 'on each rehearsal is posted to this Web site at approximately the same time.

Our usual practice is to present each program twice, once on a Saturday evening and again the next (i.e., Sunday) afternoon. Dress rehearsals (on the final Tuesday evenings before concerts) are generally held at the usual Tuesday rehearsal venue.

Rehearsals are generally held at The Arlington Community Church, though very occasionally another rehearsal space is used. The typical schedule for a pair of performances is

  • 5 to 7 regular rehearsals (depending on the difficulty of the literature) on consecutive Tuesday evenings from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM, followed by
  • a dress rehearsal on the final Tuesday evening before the first performance, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM, followed by
  • the first performance on a Saturday evening, with a call time of 6:30 PM, followed by
  • the second performance on the next afternoon (i.e., Sunday), with a call time of 2:30 PM.

Still interested? Please get in touch. And thank you for your interest.
Last updated Wednesday, January 22, 2020