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As it celebrates its 20th year, Cantilena Chamber Choir has no plans of slowing down



FEATURE STORY by Sharon Smullen, Cantilena includes some two dozen men and women ranging in age from late 20s to 70s. They share a passion for choral singing — the more challenging the better.

LENOX — For its 20th Anniversary Gala Concert at Trinity Church, Cantilena Chamber Choir has returned to its roots.

A program of signature complex choral works will begin with William Byrd’s 16th century “Sing Joyfully” — the very first piece they ever performed," said Andrea Goodman, choir director and founder. “It’s polyphonic with six voice parts, there’s not many choirs in the county that can do [that]. It’s very uplifting.”

If You Go

What: Cantilena Chamber Choir 20th Anniversary Gala Concert

Who: Cantilena Chamber Choir, director Andrea Goodman

Where: Trinity Church, 88 Walker St., Lenox

When: 3 p.m. May 19

Tickets: $35, general admission; $25, 65 and older, students with ID

Information and tickets: 518-791-0185, 


For the celebratory concert, 3 p.m. May 19, choir members selected works from more than 100 past concerts, including Brahms’ “O Heiland Reiss” and Morten Lauridsen's “Three Madrigali.” “It’s late 20th century, very tonal,” Goodman said. “He tries to depict the Italian Renaissance, you’d swear it was Monteverdi.” From rare Russian choral works she brought to the choir — her doctoral dissertation theme — they chose Dmitri Bortniansky’s 18th century “Concerto 32,” hidden during the Soviet era and rediscovered in the 1990s. Russian composers were very influenced by the Italians, she said. “I’ve picked up a lot of music over the years through travel and hearing international choruses. We’re doing a Gershwin 'Porgy and Bess' medley I heard a Russian choir sing in Austria. And I found Ildebrando Pizzetti’s 1943 work ‘Ululate’ in a used music store in Geneva, it’s very difficult, harmonically speaking.” Charles Ives’ “Psalm 90” is a Goodman favorite. “I do it because of the line ‘So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.’ There’s everything but the kitchen sink in it — tone clusters, special chords — and it ends with bells and organ.”

Jacob Fanto, Goodman’s percussionist son and Williams College junior, is slated to join the hand bell ringers; and Aaron Likness will accompany on organ. Likness will also perform “Beyond the Years,” a 2017 work for chorus and organ by Williams’ faculty member Zachary Wadsworth.


A pair of works honor two composers who died in 2023: Pulitzer Prize-winner David del Tredici’s “Acrostic Song,” adapted from his orchestral “Final Alice;” and “Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal” by Alice Parker, who lived to age 98.

“I’ve done [Parker] for 40 years; many, many times,” said Goodman, who knew both composers personally.

Cantilena includes some two dozen men and women ranging in age from late 20s to 70s: professional singers, conductors, instrumentalists, pianists, music teachers — even a retired mail carrier. They share a passion for choral singing, the more challenging the better.








Raised in New York City, Goodman moved to the Berkshires to join her husband, Clarence Fanto. With no area choirs offering repertoire aimed at more experienced singers. “A few of us decided this was something we needed,” she said. After conducting rigorous sight reading auditions, in 2004 Cantilena was born. Goodman had been in choruses since she was a child.

“My mother sang in USO shows and nightclubs,” she said. “I moved here after University of Cincinnati graduate school. I also have a degree in theater from New York University, and went to Juilliard night school at the same time. I was singing professionally in choir right away.” She first conducted a chorus at Aspen Music Festival in 1976. “They were professionals, it was like driving a Rolls Royce on cruise control,” she said. “It was a very difficult piece, but I did it. I knew right then that was it.” She served on faculty at New York University, Skidmore College, and New England and Cincinnati Conservatories; directed Saratoga Choral Festival, Concord Chorus and Northern Berkshire Chorale; and appeared at festivals from Colorado to Switzerland, France, Austria and Russia.


Cantilena soloists are mostly drawn from the professionals among the dedicated chorus members. “They stay for a long time, many have been there all 20 years,” Goodman said. “You’re not going to hear this music anywhere else.” “We all grew up together, I taught them how to do things, we’ve sung in more than 15 languages — African, Israeli, 16th century French, Norwegian, everything.”

Works have ranged from 13th-century chant to premieres, including an all-Berkshire composers concert. Highlights include collaborations with guest artists including actors Jonathan Epstein, Annette Miller and Tina Packer; Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers; and music from a silent Joan of Arc film that hadn’t been heard since 1928. “We resurrected the score and sang and played for 90 minutes,” Goodman said. They’ve also performed with instrumentalists from organists to chamber orchestras.

The chorus performs at least five concerts a year, including an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. program with visiting choirs. Most take place at Trinity Church and other area churches and cultural venues. “Trinity is right in our backyard, and acoustically perfect,” Goodman said. “They’ve been very supportive, we have use of it whenever we want.”

At Hancock Shaker Village’s 50th anniversary concert in the Round Stone Barn, there were sheep and goats bleating in the background, she said, quite a change from subways that rumbled under her New York City church performances.

Goodman has no plans to slow down. “I’m not ready to retire and neither are the singers. I’m just so grateful I have the ability to do anything we want to do, because the singers can do it.”

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