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


I flow/I AM Presidential Farewell Message



Ensemble Companio








Dear Ensemble Companio Community,


I hope you’re all healthy and enjoying the beginning of Spring!  Tomorrow is our first full concert for the 2022-2023 season, entitled I Flow/I AM.  It also marks the beginning of the end of my time as the President of Ensemble Companio’s Board.  I want to share some thoughts with you about these last three years.


Shortly after I became President-Elect of the Board in March 2020, news broke that a novel coronavirus named COVID-19 had spread beyond its initial outbreak.  Cases had been detected in the United States.  Ensemble Companio canceled its March 2020 concert given concerns for the safety of our members and audiences.  Shortly thereafter, we, like just about everyone else here in the United States, began a two-week quarantine to “flatten the curve.”  That went the way we all remember.  We canceled our entire 2019-2020 concert season.  Weeks of quarantine turned into months.  All of us did our best to get through.  None of us, thankfully, injected any bleach.


EC’s 2020-2021 concert season (which was, incidentally, our Tenth Anniversary season) was fully remote.  We continued to gather once a month, via Zoom, to be and sing together.  It was a balm for all of us in an otherwise incredibly lonely, frightening, and isolating time.  Under the steady guidance of our excellent Artistic Director, Erik Peregrine, we broke new ground as an organization with recording, remote collaboration, and streamed performances.  And unlike far too many performing arts organizations, we were, through the dedication of our members and volunteer Board, the quality of Erik’s leadership, and the generosity of you, our community, able to come through that more than a year without in-person performances intact.


We returned to in-person rehearsals for our triumphant Eleventh Anniversary season in the Fall of 2021.  Being back together was–not to overstate things–glorious.  As many of you know, I’ve been a choral singer now for over thirty years.  Before March 2020, I hadn’t gone for more than two months without experiencing the elation that comes with feeling my voice blending with the voices of other singers since I was nine years old.  Rehearsing with my friends, feeling all the joys of singing with EC again after 17 hard months, brought me so much happiness.  I know our members had similar experiences of being restored by our community and the opportunity it provides for artistry.  The 2021-2022 season added new joys, too.  Chief among those was the debut of our first commissioned piece, The Garden, by Carlos Cordero, and our renewed commitment, under Erik’s direction, to performing works by composers from communities that have been wrongfully excluded from the traditional Western choral canon.


During this 2022-2023 season, we have deepened our commitment to our mission of building bridges through authentic, inspiring performances of the finest choral music.  We have not only continued our efforts to highlight the works of excluded composers, but focused on outreach to young singers through a workshop with the William Floyd High School Chorus (directed by our very own Donia Rivera) and, tomorrow, a workshop and joint performance with the Rensselaer Concert Choir.  We are thrilled to be able to not only continue, but strengthen our charitable mission.  We believe it is ever more important at a time when marginalized and oppressed peoples in the United States are being targeted specifically through legislated bans on public artistry.  Our pursuit of that mission would not be possible without the incredible dedication of our singers, the quality and constancy of Erik’s artistic direction, and your ongoing support.


I hope to see you at our performances this year:


March 25, 2023 (Troy, NY);


April 15, 2023 (Brookline, MA); and


May 13, 2023 (New York, NY).


Finally, regardless of whether you are able to see us perform, I hope that you will continue your financial support of Ensemble Companio, and particularly our Joseph Gregorio Artistic Director Fund.  I firmly believe that Ensemble Companio would not have survived the last three years without Erik’s guidance, commitment to musical excellence, and skill at eliciting our best as performers.  The Artistic Director Fund has been critical in keeping them at our helm.   


Thank you for the support that has sustained and nurtured Ensemble Companio over these last 13 years.  It is a constant source of comfort and pride for me to be part of our joyful community.


Yours in song,


From the Director: Heavenly Home

Dear Friends,

How does one speak to how the world has changed since we last shared live music with you? Where does one even begin? It seems almost easier to recount the things which haven’t been radically altered. And yet, even after all this time, I am once again thrilled to share news of our upcoming concerts with you. It is strange how normal this feels, and yet how precious.

Our 2021-2022 program, “Heavenly Home,” explores the complex joy of (re)defining home and belonging amidst upheaval. In a way, this season’s repertoire shares threads of our ensemble’s pandemic story, weaving together music that we had prepared to perform in 2020, music that we explored together virtually in 2021, and music fresh to this 2021-2022 season. Behind our performances this season are the ghosts of canceled concerts, of fear and uncertainty and Zoom and loss and isolation and the endless stream of heartbreaking changes we have endured. Behind them, too, is the love through which we have persisted.

                “…look what happens with a love like that!”

In September 2021, we shared our first live rehearsal since March 2020. We had not seen each other for a year and a half. The absolute and overwhelming joy of being together again–changed, certainly, and yet still connected–was (is) indescribable. 


This April, we will share our first season concert since March 2019. It has been three years. Perhaps there is nothing I could write to adequately capture the spirit of this moment. Thankfully, we deal not only in words, but in music too. 

                                                “Come to my garden…”

The repertoire we will share with you in “Heavenly Home” is both exhilarating and poignant. Highlights include Betty Jackson King’s stunning setting of Psalm 57, Shawn Kirchner’s beloved Heavenly Home triptych, and a host of lush choral works from across time and place by Shavon Lloyd, Reena Esmail, Zhou Long, Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, and Caroline Shaw, among others. Another triumph of this upcoming season is the long-awaited world premiere of Carlos Cordero’s “Garden,” originally commissioned to celebrate our 10th Anniversary Season in 2020-2021. Though Carlos and I could never have predicted the way events would unfold since beginning our collaboration together, “Garden” somehow speaks even more profoundly in the wake of our past three years. While we lost the opportunity to share our milestone tenth season with you, we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate our fittingly unconventional 11th Anniversary Season this spring. 

In the wise words of one of our founding members, “our anniversaries go up to eleven.” 

This season is first and foremost a celebration. Since September, we have celebrated the blessing of coming home to each other. Now, we finally celebrate coming home to you

We are thrilled to welcome you again so very soon.


In love and gratitude,





Erik Peregrine, DMA
Artistic Director

Alumni Voices: Cailin Wilke

From the Director: Reflections on Season 10

Dear friends,

I am so grateful to share with you that even though Ensemble Companio was unable to meet in person this season, we had a rich and innovative year together. It was, in fact, a landmark season for us in many ways. We produced our first alumni virtual choir video, our first virtual holiday special, and experimented with all sorts of virtual rehearsal strategies. We collaboratively recorded about 30 minutes of music with a platform called Soundtrap (more on that later). We focused on connective opportunities in our digital format by hosting conversations with a number of inspiring and far-flung guests, including Joe Gregorio, Saunder Choi, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor, Jocelyn Hagen, and Carlos Cordero. We even arranged post-rehearsal happy hours and an end-of-season salon! 

But most importantly, every month we came together (virtually) and we sang.  

One of the things I love most about Ensemble Companio is our process-focused, relational orientation to making music together. This spring, we decided to pivot away from producing virtual choir videos and chose instead to focus on collaborating in Soundtrap. Soundtrap is a virtual recording studio that allows singers to record their own tracks while listening to the tracks their fellow singers have already recorded—still not a synchronous experience like a live rehearsal, but the platform let us hear each other’s voices during the process. That may not sound like much, but consider the timeline of typical virtual choir projects: each singer individually records and submits a polished version of their part, the editor combines all of these solo tracks, various digital miracles occur, and then some number of weeks later the completed video is ready. Essentially, singers hear themselves alone (a nerve-wracking experience!) and then a fully mastered product. Soundtrap, on the other hand, allowed us to have a more organic process: to listen to the ensemble’s real voices at every point along the journey, hone in on particular musical moments, record and re-record small sections, and work together towards artistic goals in (almost) real time.

We’d like to share part of our last few months with you, our Soundtrap recording of “Hands” by Minnesota-based composer Jocelyn Hagen. This project was prepared collaboratively in Soundtrap during Spring 2021, and you’ll hear it here in all of its unpolished glory. Above the background clicks and other extraneous noises, you’ll hear the beautiful sound of voices in community. You’ll hear us reaching out across the distance to one another—and reaching out to welcome you. I hope you enjoy this window into our year together.

It has been quite the year of “firsts” for us, and I have to say, hopefully also a year of “lasts.” At this point, we are looking forward to a live concert season in Spring 2022 and we’re in the process of exploring our options for rehearsals beginning in September. We can’t wait to share our very special 11th Anniversary Season with you this coming year, including the world premiere of  “The Garden,” our anniversary commission by Carlos Cordero. There is so much to look forward to, and we are so grateful for your continued support as we envision what our next eleven years will hold. Here’s to everything that comes next, and to the prospect of (finally) sharing live music with you in the months to come!

Wishing you all health, happiness, and the very best of summers,

Erik Peregine
Artistic Director

Reflections on The Maid of Culmore