On behalf of Ensemble Companio, I hope you are having a wonderful Fall! While you were enjoying the crisp autumn air – and pumpkin spice everything – we began our eighth season with rehearsal retreats in New York and Pennsylvania. We welcomed five new Companios into the fold, and set about the process of delving into the musical world curated for us by our artistic director, Erik Peregrine. We’ll be presenting the works of ten living composers this season, finding inspiration in the fact that our art is still keenly alive, and the finest choral music is still being written.
In this year’s program, entitled Failed Saints, we will explore the darkness and the light that exists within each of us. Anger & fear fill the daily headlines in this increasingly divided world we live in. Our season grapples with the idea that each day we have a choice: to feed the rage within us, or to choose to counteract it with compassion and love. Failed Saints explores our shared imperfections, our shared humanity and divinity, and our collective power to create the world we wish to live in.
It is probably too early in the season to have a favorite piece, but Saunder Choi’s stunning new setting of The New Colossus speaks this message most clearly to me. We all know by heart the famous excerpt from the sonnet written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, and set in bronze on the base of the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
To be honest, at first, I embraced the darkness with this one. A patriotic song feels like an odd choice at this moment in history, when we’re at each other’s throats on a daily basis.
The piece contains a rhythmic pulse throughout that is constantly moving and changing – devilishly tricky to master, but so satisfying when it all comes together. We spent a good amount of time working on it as a choir and in sectionals last rehearsal weekend, which gave me a lot of time to reflect on the text. I found myself getting a little choked up at the words, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” a beautiful message of welcome to all, set to a soaring melodic line introduced by the tenors and basses, echoed by the sopranos and altos, and building to a crescendo by the chorus as one. In that moment, I recognize anew the land that I love – an America that works together toward a common goal, each voice clearly defined on its own, but each contributing to a beautiful, greater whole. It is an America we can find again, if only we are willing to do the work, on our own and together, to get there.
I continue to find inspiration, season after season, with this wonderful group of musicians. We will be announcing our concert season soon, and I hope you will get the chance to hear and be inspired with us!
President, Ensemble Companio