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The Canby Singers humbly began as an informal madrigal group that met in various private homes during the 1950’s. The group was “discovered” by the Harvard-trained eminent musicologist, music critic, and Baroque and Renaissance specialist, Edward Tatnall Canby. Entranced by the pure tone and artless quality of the ensemble’s amateur voices, Mr. Canby officially founded The Canby Singers in 1957 and served as its first musical director until the 1980s.

Under Mr. Canby’s direction, the chamber choir found itself at the forefront of the nascent early music movement. Then, as today, the group’s repertory encompassed works by Monteverdi, Byrd, Lassus, Dufay, Josquin and other early masters. However, the group also performed newer music, specializing in Brahms, and performing modern and contemporary works from Hindemith to Elliot Carter—another tradition the group continues into the present.


The ensemble has made several highly acclaimed LPs for Nonesuch and has performed at such diverse locales as The Village Gate and Carnegie Hall. Under current director Dr. Sheila Schonbrun, the choir continues to perform interesting and diverse programs that highlight the best of the a cappella repertoire, in recognition of which the choir was awarded a 2004 grant by the Tanne Foundation. While The Canby Singers consists of highly skilled, “serious” amateurs, its 26 members prize above all their shared love of music, unique chemistry, and sense of camaraderie.


The Canby Singers is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.

DR. SHEILA SCHONBRUN, Musical Director
Sheila Schonbrun has conducted the Canby Singers since 1994. A noted soprano soloist, Ms. Schonbrun has appeared with Music For A While, the New York Pro Musica, Continuum and Speculum Musicae, and has performed in countless imaginative solo-recital programs, both within the United States and abroad. Of her international appearances, those in the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia, South America and Japan are personal favorites.


In addition to her work with The Canby Singers, Ms. Schonbrun conducts the Rockland Camerata, based in Nyack, New York. She also has conducted and continues to conduct at workshops around the United States. Ms. Schonbrun holds a Ph.D. in music from the City University of New York Graduate Center; her dissertation, "Ambiguous Artists: Music-making among Italian Renaissance Courtesans," focused on Renaissance-era Venice. She counts Margaret Hillis, Robert Shaw, LaNoue Davenport and Noah Greenberg among her most influential teachers/collaborators, as well as the musicologists Edward Lowinsky and Leo Treitler.

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