Why Cantare Con Vivo Sings

Joseph Sargent on May 3, 2010

Cantare Con Vivo Music Director David Morales takes the title of his ensemble quite literally. In 23 years of conducting this conglomerate of large, small, and children’s groups, he has developed an unwavering commitment to using singers’ own life experiences to enhance their performance. “I thrive on getting singers to risk investing their personal stories into the texts they are singing, through the given notes, dynamics, and rhythms,” he says. “The challenge for me is turning ink on a page — both notes and words — into sounds that go past our ears and touch our very core. I don’t stop until that happens, and my singers trust me with that part of our shared journey.”

David Morales

Cantare’s latest journey probes the pulsating life forms of nature, in a May 16 concert titled “Go Lovely Rose” at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church. The 24-voice Cantare Chamber Chorale performs Benjamin Britten’s Five Flower Songs, Morten Lauridsen’s En une seule Fleur, Charles Villiers Stanford’s The Blue Bird, and other works, in a performance that surely won’t lack for emotionality.

Morales’ creative process weaves together language and personal experience in an intimate tapestry. “A not-too-often acknowledged pillar of choral music is that it uses text — this evolving tool we use to communicate the mundane, as well as the mysteries of life. Names, faces, memories — all come into play, and I’m now again briefly connected to them with heartfelt gratitude.” Community is another important theme. As Morales observes, “Since choral singing is a team event, we also discover we share lots in common. And because the second pillar of choral singing is defined by its essential community collaboration, we need each other to bring these pieces to life.” This communal engagement extends to the audience, too, with deliberate efforts to have music “unleash the soul and emotions of the listener.”

Although listeners might expect some slacking off after more than two decades of conducting the same ensemble, Morales finds constant renewal with Cantare. “I’m always looking for different concepts, texts, and settings that are new to me and our singers and listeners,” he notes. “Having performed more than 1,000 pieces with Cantare alone over 23 years makes that somewhat challenging, but it is what I thrive on — staying fresh and inspired. What brings me back every season, series, concert, and rehearsal is that they are all new at that moment in the process, regardless of whether we’ve done them previously.”

For Morales, music making is fundamentally about enriching the mind, body, and spirit of everyone involved, filling the gaps that permeate our daily lives. “I believe we need to experience these artistic opportunities to combat the lack of spiritual nourishment in many of our lives. We are inundated with negativity that diminishes us, as well as those [who are] cast in the media’s spotlight. It causes us to become apathetic, nonresponsive, or — worse — depressed and hopeless. There is little that enlivens our creative juices, reminding us of what is possible and beautiful, even of our very sacredness. That is why we sing.”