The Schola Cantorum of Santa Fe was founded in 1990 by Dr. Billy Turney during his 25-year tenure as principal organist and Director of Music of Cathedral of Saint Francis in Santa Fe. Turney is a Santa Fe native and began his music studies with the Sisters of the Loretto Academy at a young age. He experienced the Sisters singing the chants of Vespers in the Loretto Chapel, an experience that helped shape his sacred music career. Turney studied Gregorian chant and polyphonic music of the Renaissance in Rome at the prestigious Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, and has the unique perspective of presenting this special sacred music in its original context.
The Schola has shared the sounds of sacred music masterpieces for more than twenty years in the Santa Fe area at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Miguel Mission— oldest church in the USA, and Santa Maria de La Paz Catholic church. Through the years the Schola has traveled as far south as the Basilica of San Albino in Mesilla in southern New Mexico, and to the Cathedrals of the Sacred Heart (Pueblo) and Saint Mary (Colorado Springs) in Colorado. In 2011 the Schola included concerts in Cañon City, Pueblo (a fundraiser for the 110th anniversary of the church construction) and Alamosa, Colorado, Albuquerque and Los Alamos, New Mexico, and in Santa Fe at the Loretto Chapel and Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Turney travels to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert near Abiquiu on a regular basis to give lessons in vocal technique and organ for the singing and accompanying of Gregorian chant. In July 2011 Turney had the great opportunity to travel to Ireland to study and sing under the direction of Michael McGlynn, director of Anúna— Ireland’s national choir. The weeklong study in Dublin culminated with a concert comprised of Anúna, choral directors from around the world such as Turney, and visiting members from the Chieftans, Riverdance, and Celtic Women.
Michael McGlynn is well respected for his founding of the music for Riverdance. and Anúna is respected worldwide as the finest of a cappella choirs. Michael’s attention to detail on and off the stage along with his high degree of musical expertise were enlightening are motivating.
Bringing Anúna’s skills back to the Schola from Ireland has been great fun. Turney has asked the Schola for the same request Michael makes of Anúna singers—to be willing to sing in a very different manner than we are used to, putting aside old habits and stepping up to a new level of performance.