SPOLIA – Season 13 President’s Message

Dear friends,

This autumn, I spent a few days in my beloved Catskill Mountains hiking, relaxing, and dislodging my writer’s block re: this letter. The modern observer encounters a forest which is actually quite young, a result of nineteenth-century tanneries’ annihilation of the Eastern hemlocks which once covered these hills. Stubborn patches of old-growth forest still linger in the remotest places, where one can also find fossilized remains of creatures who, millions of years ago, knew the region as an inland sea. Stepping into these groves, I’m always acutely aware of being no more (and no less) than the most recent visitor in a vast procession stretching across the eons.

On this trip, I was especially drawn to the coexistence of the old and the new because I arrived steeped in the idea of SPOLIA, our theme for Season 13. To quote our Artistic Director, Erik Peregrine,

Spolia is an architectural term for materials removed from their original context and reused in a new one, such as a Roman column integrated into a Gothic cathedral. More broadly, spolia describes the creative re/appropriation of objects, ideas, and aesthetics to generate something which is simultaneously old and new.

You’ll hear more from Erik about how this concept plays out in our repertoire as concert season approaches. In my own reflections, I keep returning to a line from Michael Bussewitz-Quarm’s luminous Adoravit (performed by Ensemble Companio in spring 2022), “Senex puerum portabat: Puer autem senem regebat,” which David Fraser translates as, “An ancient upheld the Infant, But the Infant upheld the ancient.” To me this is the essence of choral music: visiting and revisiting existing texts and musical gestures, but each time creating a fresh realization of the ideas and emotions implied therein. The music, once written, can provoke, remind, and inspire, but to do so it needs our living voices. When we perform a piece, we have the opportunity to briefly share a space with every other person who has sung or will sing that collection of words and notes. It’s a powerful act of community which anchors us in where we’ve been and strengthens us to reach forward into the unknown.

EC is also experiencing the coexistence of old and new in our operations this season (working with some operational spolia, as it were). We’ve had the pleasure of welcoming both brand-new Companios and alumni who have returned after taking a few years’ break. This latest mix of voices is already yielding some gorgeous results in rehearsals. Additionally, several of us rejoined the Board of Directors: Mikey Steiger, former President/current Ensemble Advocate, Allison Bailey, former and current General Manager, Katie DiMaria, former and current Development Chair, and me, Emily Higgins, former Communications Chair/current President. Together with the rest of the board, we’re focused on building up the organizational muscle to realize our dreams and goals for EC’s future. It’s a tremendous privilege to have emerged from our first decade (and hopefully last pandemic) and be looking forward to our fifteenth, twentieth, and even thirtieth seasons.

Finally, as 2023 draws to a close, we invite you to consider supporting Ensemble Companio through your year-end giving. Your contribution plays a pivotal role in sustaining and elevating our musical endeavors, including projects like our newly released album, Journeys, now available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, and other platforms. Visit ensemblecompanio.org/support to discover the various ways in which your generosity can make a lasting impact on our multifaceted initiatives to foster musical excellence, engage with the community, and drive artistic innovation. Your year-end gift is not just a contribution; it’s an investment in the future of Ensemble Companio. Thank you for helping us continue to thrive!

I hope to see many of you at our concerts in the spring, and that you all have a happy and healthy new year!


Emily Higgins
President, Ensemble Companio