A cantata (//; Italian: [kanˈtaːta]; literally "sung", past participle feminine singular of the Italian verb cantare, "to sing") is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.
The meaning of the term changed over time, from the simple single-voice madrigal of the early 17th century, to the multi-voice "cantata da camera" and the "cantata da chiesa" of the later part of that century, from the more substantial dramatic forms of the 18th century to the usually sacred-texted 19th-century cantata, which was effectively a type of short oratorio. Cantatas for use in the liturgy of church services are called church cantata or sacred cantata; other cantatas can be indicated as secular cantatas. Several cantatas were, and still are, written for special occasions, such as Christmas cantatas. Christoph Graupner, Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach composed cycles of church cantatas for the occasions of the liturgical year.