|Cantores in Ecclesia was established in 1983 at St. Patrick's Church through an arrangement with its pastor, Fr. Frank Knusel, Bishop Paul Waldschmidt of the Archdiocese of Portland, and Dean Applegate, the choir's founding director. Its first weekly Latin Mass was on the Feast of Corpus Christi, for which it sang William Byrd's Mass for Five Voices and selections from his Gradualia (1605), foreshadowing a special relationship with the music of Byrd which has continued to this day.
In 2002, the choir became independent from the parish of St. Patrick and was incorporated as Cantores in Ecclesia, Ltd., a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission, however, remained unchanged: the restoration of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony to the church's liturgy. After several years at Immaculate Heart Church, Cantores in Ecclesia became the choir in residence at St. Stephen’s Church in December, 2007. In March 2010 the directorship of the choir was turned over to Blake Applegate, with his father continuing as managing director of the Byrd Festival and chairman of the choir's Board of Directors.
Cantores in Ecclesia’s “season” is year-long. The children's choir, rehearsing on Mondays, and the adult choir on Thursdays, provide music for St. Stephen's weekly sung Latin Mass, an extensive and energetic commitment of time and talent. With a choral repertoire from early music through the 20th century, they are dedicated to offering the very best in Catholic polyphony with an emphasis on unaccompanied Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony.
Cantores in Ecclesia has sung in concert and for liturgies at home and abroad, including tours to Mexico, Spain, France, England and Italy. In addition to its weekly schedule, the choir prepares sacred concerts and has recorded compact discs independently and for Oregon Catholic Press. Featured in print media and on the internet, with articles in BBC Music Magazine (August 1997), Brainstorm (February 2004), and The Early Music Review (2008), Cantores in Ecclesia has established itself as a leader in liturgical performance, winning loyal supporters at home and gold medals in international competition. One of the highlights of the choir’s commitment to liturgical and musical excellence is each August's William Byrd Festival, which since 1997 has brought guest conductors, lecturers and musicians to Portland for two full weeks of the Masses, organ music, madrigals and motets of the choir's old friend and inspiration, Renaissance composer, William Byrd.
The principal service of Cantores in Ecclesia, however, has been and will remain the integration of sacred music and liturgy. At its heart is the ancient sung prayer of Gregorian chant, supported by the sacred music of great masters such as Palestrina, Victoria, and Byrd. In this respect, Cantores in Ecclesia has changed very little since its inception: a choir fully dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in liturgical context within the Latin Mass of the Catholic Church.