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Cantabile - The London Quartet
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Cantabile - The London Quartet

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London Vocal Group
Cantabile Past

An ongoing history of Cantabile Personnel

The original Cantabile was formed in Cambridge in 1977, to feature as a barbershop quartet in a musical comedy at the ADC Theatre written by Robert (sic) Bryan and Richard Turner (who would later direct the Footlights revue, and go on to become script editor for Spitting Image). Bob already had in mind the ideal high tenor for the quartet: a medical student, Nick Ibbotson, with whom he sang regularly in Pembroke College chapel choir. (It was, incidentally Pembroke College which some years earlier had spawned various Cambridge comedy notables, including Bill Oddie.)

The other members of the quartet were chose by open auditions: counter-tenor Stevie Dunstan, and tenor Colin Stewart (sic) and baritone Michael Stevens (sic!), who were already close friends, being at the same college. In the grand tradition of the Broadway musical, Stevie had to drop out through illness, and Bob - occupying hitherto solely the role of Musical Director - stepped in to save the day.

British Quartet

When the four members of the quartet later joined the British actors' union, Equity, three of them discovered that their names were already taken by existing Equity members. Since rules prevent two members sharing the same name, Michael Stevens became Michael Steffan; in a move which would forever confuse his parents, Colin Stewart became Stewart Collins; and Robert became Richard Bryan (not without Equity initially allowing him, then denying him his first choice, Peter).

To this day no one can remember whether to call him Richard or Bob.

Meanwhile, after the success of the ADC show (called Charlotte's Hotel , incidentally), there was another name to worry about: that of the group itself. Reflecting the character of their (limited) repertoire at the time, the acronym C.U.B.S. was chosen - yes, Cambridge University Barbershop Singers. Oh dear. Later that year, the C.U.B.S. joined the revue group Oxbridge at Edinburgh, where they took part in no fewer than fifty-two shows on the Fringe. With this, their repertoire expanded hugely, and as a result a new name was chosen to reflect the group's style, rather than (hitherto) just one aspect of their music. This choice was by no means easy, and it was left to Bob's mother to provide the decisive inspiration: the Italian musical term Cantabile, which not only encapsulated the quartet's 'singingness', but also hinted at its origins. 'Cantab' is the abbreviation which, placed after such academic letters as B.A. or M.A. indicates that the degree in question was obtained in Cantabrigiensis - the Latin for Cambridge.

Bob, Nick, Stew and Mike were to be a quartet for the next ten years or so, no less. However, during that time there were various occasions when for various reasons other singers stepped in to help out while one or other of the lads was studying or working. These became the first in the list of distinguished Cantabile Alumni, compiled for the first time here.

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Rag Day 1977
Rag Day 1977
Morgan Crowley Bill Purefoy
Morgan Crowley Bill Purefoy
Stewart  Collins Paul Hull
Stewart Collins Paul Hull
Steve Trowell Jeremy Budd
Steve Trowell Jeremy Budd
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