Suspicious Cheese Lords
The Suspicious Cheese Lords, also known as Suscipe Quæso Domine, is an American male a cappella ensemble based in Washington, D.C.. SCL is a wholly autonomous, professional ensemble and a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to stimulate interest in early music throughout the metropolitan Washington area and beyond. Secondarily, SCL has established a reputation for researching, recording, and promoting previously unrecorded works of Renaissance composers.
The group was started by Clifton "Skip" West in 1996 as a casual collection of friends interested in singing early music. West invited five friends to sing through Thomas Tallis's Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, promising a home-cooked dinner to those who would come and sing. From such humble origins, a common devotion to the music of Tallis and other Renaissance and medieval composers led the group to continue meeting weekly and eventually to expand and formalize their ranks as a bona fide a cappella performance group. To the present day, each weekly rehearsal begins with a home-cooked dinner.
Since incorporating as a not-for-profit educational organization in 1999, the group has comprised between 9 and 15 members, with roughly equal division among countertenors/altos, tenors, baritones, and basses. The SCL has pursued an increasingly ambitious performance schedule, including four distinct concert programs in fall 2006.
SCL recorded its first CD, Maestro di Capella: Music of Elzéar Genet (Carpentras), in summer 2002. This was followed by the fall 2004 release of Missa L'homme armé: Sacred Music of Ludwig Senfl. A third CD, Vivat Rex!: Sacred Choral Music of Jean Mouton was released in February 2008. All three recordings consist exclusively of previously unrecorded works by important but often-forgotten Renaissance composers.
Although the Cheese Lords specialize in polyphonic music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, their repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant to original compositions. The group's membership has included at least four composers; those whose works the group has performed are founding members George Cervantes, Gary W. Winans, Jr., and Seth Stoppelmoor. Cervantes composed a setting of "The Prayer of St. Francis" which the Lords performed for Pope Benedict XVI on April 17, 2008, during an inter-religious meeting at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.
From 1998 to 2005, the Cheese Lords served as artists in residence at Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan Monastery, the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C. The Cheese Lords assisted in developing "An Evening at the Tabard Inn", an event for the Smithsonian Institution's Resident Associates program, for which the group provided music contemporary to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and related to the theme of pilgrimage. The group has twice performed for the National Gallery of Art's Concert Series—a Christmas concert in 2005 and a November 2006 program of Flemish Renaissance composers to accompany NGA's exhibit Prayers and Portraits: Unfolding the Netherlandish Diptych.
The Lords' other performance venues have included Washington National Cathedral, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, the Cathedral of St. Thomas More (Arlington, Virginia), the Old Presbyterian Meeting House (Alexandria, Virginia), Christendom College (Front Royal, Virginia), and XM Satellite Radio's Live Performance Studio. SCL's concerts are regularly broadcast on the Vox channel of XM Satellite Radio.
In 2006 the Suspicious Cheese Lords won a Washington Area Music Award for Best Choral Group. In 2005 they won Best New Artist and received two other nominations.
The Suspicious Cheese Lords' name is derived from the title of the Tallis motet Suscipe quæso Domine. In the process of "translating" the title, an early Lord observed that "suscipe" looked rather like "suspicious", "quæso" was close to the queso, the Spanish word for "cheese", and "Domine" is legitimately Latin for "Lord." Hence, "Suspicious Cheese Lord"—which in time became adopted as the group's name. While the whimsical name has served to draw attention to the group, it belies the group's decidedly serious musical sensibilities.
- Joseph Bates (tenor)
- George Cervantes (bass)
- Daniel Ebeling (countertenor)
- Matt Emery (baritone)
- Chrisopher Fominaya (bass)
- Sargon de Jesus (bass)
- Peter Larsen (baritone)
- Zachary Mark (tenor)
- Christopher Riggs (countertenor)
- Anthony Smitha (baritone)
- Brent Stephens (tenor)
- Clifton (Skip) West (countertenor)
- Gary Winans (tenor)