Cantilena was commissioned by the Grenland International Brass Festival - Řyvind Klingberg, Festival Director – for their 2011 event.

The Grenland International Brass Festival has been an important date in the brass band calendar since its inception in 1997. It takes place every April in the beautiful Norwegian town of Skien and is perhaps the only festival of its kind; bands, spread over four divisions, have every aspect of their skill and musicality tested in three separate disciplines. First, a 'church concert' in the stunning surroundings of Skien Cathedral, then a 'set piece' competition and finally an 'entertainment' own choice programme, when bands have the opportunity to impress with a wide variety of new arrangements and established repertoire.

Cantilena was a compulsory piece in the 'church concert' for all four divisions when the festival took place on April 29-30, 2011. Skien was the birthplace of Norway's most famous playwright and poet, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906); indeed the cultural centre in Skien where some of the Grenland Festival takes place is called the Ibsenhuset (Ibsen House). The inspiration for the title came when composer Philip Sparke noticed the title of Ibsen's first play was Catilina, the story of the Roman noble, Lucius Catilina. The nearest musical equivalent, cantilena, means 'lullaby' and, more broadly, 'playing in a singing style' and was therefore the perfect choice for this lyrical and passionate piece.