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SCHOLA CANTORUM (article first published : 2003-05-3)

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Friends of Music will continue their innovative Prelude Performers programme for a further year.

Appearing before the performance by celebrated classical guitarist Aldo Lagrutta on May 13, the Schola Canotorum of St Henry’s Marist Brothers College will give a prelude performance under the direction of Cameron Upchurch.

The Schola Cantorum of St Henry’s Marist Brothers’ College, Durban, was founded in 1999. It comprises a group of 15 youngsters who are also members of the College Senior Choir selected for their vocal ability and commitment to choral activities. The term Schola Cantorum (‘school of singers’) has been in common use in the Roman Catholic Church since around the fifth century AD. The boys’ primary function is the study and performance of music from the Roman Catholic Church’s great heritage of music. Included in this is the famed Gregorian Chant, Latin Polyphony and other sacred pieces in English and Zulu. As their most important guide and encouragement the group takes very seriously the statements of the Second Vatican Council that the ‘inestimable treasure’ of the Church’s music is to be ‘preserved and fostered with great care.’

The ensemble’s first duty and obligation is a liturgical one. The boys sing at Mass at Holy Trinity Church in Durban every Monday evening of the school term at 17h30. The Schola also sings concerts and Masses at various churches in the Archdiocese of Durban and around KZN. Other engagements have included art gallery recitals and workshops for the South African Society of Music Teachers. They have given combined performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria and Mozart’s Requiem with the Chamber Choir of St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls and the Choir of St John’s College, Houghton. They have just returned from a successful tour of Gauteng where they performed works by Vivaldi, Pergolesi and Durufle with the choir of St John’s College, conducted by acclaimed Norwegian choral expert, Kare Hanken.

Admission to the group is by audition, with the members coming from the senior phase of the high school. The schedule is full and indeed busy – there are at least three rehearsals per week and the weekly Sung Mass. The Schola Cantorum has gained for itself a good reputation for the worthy performance of sacred music, particularly Gregorian Chant. It is probably the only schoolboy group of its kind in the country that sings plainchant on a regular basis.

Cameron Upchurch read for the BMus and MMus degrees at the Universities of Natal and Durban-Westville, specialising in Organ Performance and Musicology. After four years as a full-time lecturer at the Music Department at the University of Durban-Westville, he took up a new post at St Henry’s Marist Brothers’ College in January 2000, where he teaches music and trains the Senior Choir and Schola Cantorum. Winner of the Bach Prize in the National Organ Competition for University Students in 1992, he has performed as solo organist and with the KZNPO in many venues. Harpsichord and organ continuo work, especially with the Corelli Consort, a historical performance group has also taken a little of his time.

Cameron’s first and greatest love is liturgical music, to which he devotes the major part of his professional career. He has planned, rehearsed and executed the music for numerous important liturgical functions. These include Masses with full orchestra and other solemn functions such as ordinations. His Master’s degree dissertation focuses on the liturgical and musical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and their effect in the Archdiocese of Durban. He is also kept busy as Director of Music at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Durban, having also held a similar post at the Emmanuel Cathedral.

The Friends of Music recital takes place at the Durban Jewish Club on May 13 at 19h45. Tickets R60 (R50 FOM members and R15 students). Book through Computicket on 083 915 8000.




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