The Cantata Singers was founded in 1964 to prepare and present what was then a long-neglected repertoire, the cantatas of J.S. Bach. Since that time, led by such distinguished music directors as John Harbison (1969-1973, 1980-1982), John Ferris (1976-1980), and David Hoose (from 1982), the group has expanded its repertoire to include works from the 17th century to the present day. Winner of the 1995 ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, the organization is dedicated to challenging programming, including the commissioning of new works.
Under the direction of David Hoose, the 44-member Cantata Singers chorus presents an annual subscription series of eight concerts with its chamber orchestra in Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory in Boston, as well as a chamber series featuring vocal chamber works under the direction of pianist Kayo Iwama.
The Cantata Singers has recorded works of J.S. Bach, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky, as well as the contemporary composers Irving Fine, David Chaitkin, Seymour Shifrin, John Harbison, Charles Fussell and Peter Child. The Cantata Singers' recordings and performances can be heard regularly on local and national radio, most often on WGBH-FM in New England and on the program First Art throughout the USA.
In addition to concert activities, the Cantata Singers sponsors an educational program called "Classroom Cantatas" in the Boston Public Schools. This program introduces composition and performance preparation to elementary, middle, and high school students; by the end of the 12-session residency students with little or no prior musical experience have written and performed their own musical compositions.