Cappella Cantorum was co-founded by its original Music Director & Conductor, Barry B. Asch and Charter President Phillip Zimmerman, in January 1970.  Cappella Cantorum emerged from the belief that a need existed for a continuing opportunity for the Lower Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline community to participate in the fellowship of choral singing.  Following a performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols by choir members and friends of the First Congregational Church of Essex in December 1969, Mr. Asch and Mr. Zimmerman approached the augmented choir with the idea, and Cappella Cantorum was born.

Schubert Mass in E flat major, March 22, 1970 program cover

Cappella Cantorum debuts with Schubert’s Mass in E flat major, March 22, 1970

The group would perform its own concerts and Phil suggested it be called “Cappella Cantorum” which literally translates from Latin into “chapel singers.”

On Palm Sunday, March 22, 1970, Cappella Cantorum performed its first concert, Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E flat major (D. 950) at Valley Regional High School in Deep River with 51 singers and an amateur orchestra.

Wilma Brewer Asch served as Executive Director for the organization’s first 16 years.  Mrs. Asch secured 3 consecutive grants from the State of Connecticut which helped to establish Cappella Cantorum and allowed the hiring of professional orchestras and soloists.