Do Savannnah

I Cantori spring concert inspired by bitter winter chill

  • Robert Harris directs I Cantori singers at a previous performance. (Savannah Morning News file photo)

I Cantori spring concert inspired by bitter winter chill

17 May 2017

The thought of Minneapolis in March is downright chilling.

While attending an international choral conductors’ convention in Minneapolis, Dr. Robert Harris, director of the I Cantori chamber choir, was thinking about the group’s upcoming spring concert. The result will be “Island Magic,” set for May 21 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Skidaway Island.

“I had been toying with the idea of doing some pieces I had set aside from the Philippines and a couple of other lovely things from Asia, but the theme hadn’t showed up yet,” Harris says. “Walking around chilly Minneapolis in early March inspired thoughts of blue skies and warm beaches. An island concert concept was born.”

Networking at the convention, Harris gathered some songs for the concert.

“The American Choral Directors Association has regional conventions,” he says. “The national convention is actually an international event.

“There are choirs from all over the world. The idea for this concert had been kicking around in the back of my head.

“There’s one publisher in particular that specializes in what the educational community has started calling ‘world music,’” Harris says. “This concert kind of bloomed. I could have done the whole concert out of their catalogue.”

Performing on Skidaway Island could not be more appropriate. The songs come from 10 different islands and are sung in seven languages — eight if you count Middle English for the oldest song.

“We are singing in Japanese and a dialect of Chinese from a remote part of the country,” Harris says. “We have Tagalog, the Philippine language, and some Hawaiian.

“There was a session at the convention that was inspiring, with a man from Hawaii who was so passionate about his local music. I got a couple of songs he had arranged.

“There are a couple of pieces from Cuba that came from another convention a few years ago that are not readily available in the United States,” Harris says. “The Cuban pieces are very rhythmic and you definitely know they come from south of the border.”

Harris thoroughly enjoyed finding pieces, although he found so many, he had to make difficult decisions about which ones to leave out.

“In fact, the singers dread the possibility that I might pull out something new at the last minute,” he says. “I think we are aiming at properly pronouncing seven languages. Not bad for a bunch of Southerners.”

The effort is going to be worth it.

“We’re going on an island tour,” Harris says. “… We’ve got a number of pieces from Scotland, Ireland and England. I guess the only one that is arguable is Australia. We’re choosing to decide it’s surrounded by water, so we’re including it.”

There will be some traditional I Cantori-type songs.

“It’s really an amazing variety,” Harris says. “Some pieces are more like classical art music by composers from these places who are better known in their home countries, but not as well known outside.

“The folk music is really familiar. We’ve got ‘Annie Laurie,’ ‘Loch Lomond,’ a couple of Irish tunes from ‘Riverdance.’

“One is kind of a folk-style piece that I arranged years ago,” he says. “There’s an Irish piece in what they call mountain music. In the original context, a group of people would sing syllables and dance to music in the absence of instruments.”

The songs all have one thing in common — they’re fun.

“This is not a stuffy concert for just academics,” Harris says. “There’s a wonderful little children’s folk song from the Philippines and an internationally known Japanese folk song.

“It’s not exactly what I call a traditional I Cantori concert. This one is familiar music and some that is not totally familiar, but is fun to hear.

“We hope people will come out,” Harris says. “We worry about the weather this time of year. Even if it’s stormy, this concert will be worth it.”


What: I Cantori’s spring concert: “Island Magic”

When: 7:30 p.m. May 21

Where: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 3 W. Ridge Road

Cost: $15 adults, $10 students

Info: 912-925-7866,