The Suspicious Cheese Lords was founded by Clifton “Skip” West in 1996. Skip had the typical American dream of wanting to sing Thomas Tallis’ Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah. To accomplish this goal, he enticed a core group of five amateur singers, friends who were current and former members of the Cathedral Choral Society, by promising a home-cooked dinner to those who would come and bellow.
Since then, the Cheese Lords have consisted of between 10 and 15 members. They still gather in Skip’s dining room once a week to sing, drink, talk, eat, drink, sing, and did we say drink? In spite of this—or perhaps because of it—this male a cappella ensemble has been able to prepare and perform high-quality and heart-felt music throughout the Washington, D.C. area.
The ensemble assisted in the developing “An Evening at the Tabbard Inn” an event for the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associates program in which the Cheese Lords provided music contemporary to Chauncer’s Canterbury Tales and related to the theme of pilgrimage.
The Lords’ other performance venues have included the Washington National Cathedral, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, the National Gallery of Art, Epiphany Catholic Church (Georgetown), the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, Christ Church (La Plata, MD), the Cathedral of St. Thomas More (Arlington, VA), the Old Presbyterian Meeting House (Alexandria, VA), Christendom College (Front Royal, VA).
The Cheese Lords have also had several performances on XM Satellite Radio including regular broadcasts on the Vox Channel. They are currently featured on the Symphony Hall channel.
The Suspicious Cheese Lords’ name is derived from the title of a Thomas Tallis motet, Suscipe quæso Domine. While “translating” the title, it was observed that Suscipe could be “suspicious,” quæso is close to the Spanish word queso meaning “cheese,” and Domine is, of course, “Lord.” Hence, the title of the motet was clearly “Suspicious Cheese Lord”—which in time became adopted as the group’s name. Although their name is humorous, the group appreciates the literal translation of Suscipe Quæso Domine, which is, “Take, I ask, Lord.” Suspiciously, the Cheese Lords have yet to perform this motet.
“The Cheese Lords… sang with an ensemble precision and a sensitivity to the music’s varied styles as impressive as their imagination in programming. … a mind-expanding experience.”
— Joseph McLellan, Washington Post