As events surrounding COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue to unfold, Ensemble Companio has decided to cancel our upcoming concerts on March 28 in Brookline, MA, and April 11 in Averill Park, NY. We will be reaching out individually to all who have purchased tickets shortly to discuss your options. As of now, our May concert in New York City will proceed as planned—we will continue to follow developments closely, and reassess our plans in the coming weeks.
The ensemble has worked incredibly hard this season preparing our performance of Journeys, and we are so proud of the strong and deep music-making and community-building we have done this season! Limiting our options to share this wonderful program with all of you has been a heart wrenching decision to make, but ultimately the right one. Our greatest responsibility during this challenging time is to ensure the health and safety of our members and our communities.
Like many arts organizations, concert revenue is overwhelmingly our largest source of income, and these cancellations will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on our organization. Despite this, we are committed to the financial support of our artistic leadership, regardless of how many concerts we are able to perform. Now more than ever, we are dependent on community support as we navigate these unknown waters. If you would like to contribute, donations to our Artistic Director fund can be made here. Our sincerest gratitude in advance for your continued support and generosity!
Above all else, please stay safe, take care of yourselves and your loved ones! Although we are actively practicing social distancing, the love and support within this community is stronger than ever. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out via email: email@example.com.
All the best,
The Board of Ensemble Companio:
Mikey Steiger, President
Allison Bailey, General Manager
Katie DiMaria, Development Chair
Emily Higgins, Communications Chair
Kara Li, Treasurer
Greg Pratt, Secretary
Kimberly Rice-Smith, Ensemble Advocate
Ensemble Companio’s ability to exist at all is anchored to a pervasive sense of hospitality and trust in one another. We are a widespread community, and during our rehearsal weekends together we are—more often than not—guests in someone else’s home. This is true in both literal and metaphorical senses; choral singing is, on a fundamental level, rooted in the the same sort of profound trust that fortifies us to collectively trek thousands of miles each month to our fellow Companios’ houses across the Northeast, receiving and being received by turns. To be vocal together is to be vulnerable together, to—for a time—allow the roads that we walk as individuals to converge so that we may hold space for each other’s joys and struggles, and in these, seek meaning together in threads of song.
“Look what happens with a love like that…”
The journey of human experience is seldom linear, often folding back upon itself, leaping forward by turns, or suddenly breaking off towards an unforeseen horizon. I think of Benjamin Britten writing “Hymn to St. Cecilia” on his way back across the Atlantic in the midst of World War II, knowing that trials for avoiding military service awaited both he and his partner. I think also of the words of Mirem de Ondiz as set by Carlos Cordero which sit with oft-unseen complexities of immigration, of all that has been gained and of all that has been left behind. I think of the futility and resolve of Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s poem Sympathy, of the ecstatic longing that imbues the American shape-note tradition, of death that transforms the living as much as it does the deceased, and of the resilience of the multitudes who have tread this earth before us. Music is intrinsically of and for all of these journeys—a vessel of connection, a fire in which purpose can be distilled and carried forward. Music is for making sense of chaos. Music is for now.
“…I cry because of such uncertainty…”
“Oh wear your tribulation like a rose….”
“I know why the caged bird sings.”
Our 2019-2020 concert season, Journeys, is a meditation on the creation of meaning—individually and collectively—throughout the uncertainties of human existence. A varied and colorful program, musical highlights range from Benjamin Britten’s celebrated Hymn to St. Cecilia and lesser-known works by Reena Esmail, Salamone Rossi, and Fanny Mendelssohn to settings of familiar American tunes by Moses Hogan and Jocelyn Hagen, among others. This season’s repertoire crosses through a broad spectrum of emotion and experience, seeking understanding through both the unknown and the familiar, ultimately calling upon us to meet all of our “fellow travelers” with the same hospitality of spirit that lends choral singing its transformative potential.
We are so excited to share our journey with you in the coming months.
Warm wishes for the road ahead,
We close the first half of this season’s concert, Journeys, with one of my favorites: Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia. My introduction to this piece was also my introduction to choral singing, when I joined the university choir in my first semester of college. I have to confess that I only signed up as a requirement of my major, initially viewing choral singing as nothing more than another credit to be earned. But Britten soon changed my mind. From the first measure, the depth of harmony and poetry working together was a revelation. I was blown away at how the 4 voice parts come together to form something greater than the individual parts. By the end of rehearsal, I remember thinking, “I’ve found my people.”
Starting college in a new place with new people is a rough transition for most; mine was made more difficult when my father lost his battle to cancer in the second week of the semester. As an already painfully shy person, being thrust into a new school with unfamiliar people and simultaneously having to come to terms with the first big loss in my life was an overwhelming prospect. But like St. Cecilia, who “poured forth her song in perfect calm,” I discovered that through singing my grief, anxiety, and uncertainty all faded into catharsis. My journey that first year mirrored the journey of the piece, as the tenor soloist reaches the climax of the hymn with my favorite line, “O wear your tribulation like a rose!” In other words, own your suffering, celebrate the journey that got you here. And so when I reflect on the question of why I sing, the answer is simple: It’s my therapy.
Ensemble Companio creates exactly the right conditions for this kind of healing singing. Our rehearsal weekends once a month function like retreats: closed in a rehearsal room with 24 of your friends, phones away, shut off from the world of work and obligations, with nothing to do for two days but make incredible music together. What I love about our season-long concert cycle is the ability to spend time not only learning notes and honing our ensemble, but also to put our music aside, and share. It’s not uncommon for laughter and tears to accompany our rehearsal discussions as we delve together into what the words on the page really mean to us. That connection – the bridge we build between each other – takes the experience to another level entirely.
Our Communications Chair, alto Emily Higgins, has coined a phrase to describe what we do: radical collective intimacy. In an increasingly divided and self-absorbed world, it is a radical act to share each other’s burdens the way Ensemble Companio does. What a gift to be able to turn stress, sorrow, and pain into joy, love, and community. It’s become our practice to close every rehearsal weekend by singing Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas, as a reminder of the love we create when we come together, and to take it with us as we return to the real world.
The love and fellowship we build also extends beyond our immediate members. If you’ve been following us this season, you’ll know we launched a competition to commission a new work for our 10th Anniversary Season next year. We were simply overwhelmed with the amazing response of applicants we received! Our mission and our call to collaborate with those who are underrepresented in the choral world clearly resonated deeply with the composer community. It has also given us a wonderful way to invite in four of our alumni Companios to shape the musical future of EC by serving on the jury. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make a space to collaborate with living artists to create something new and special next season. I can’t wait for us to announce the winner, and begin the work of bringing new art into the word.
Today we celebrate Giving Tuesday with the launch of our annual Drive to Sing. I’ve shared a little about why I sing in the hope that you will find Ensemble Companio a worthy cause to give of yourself to. Quite simply, none of this would be possible without the support of generous donors like you.
Gifts of any amount are welcome through our Drive to Sing campaign website – making up over 80% of our annual budget. You can also support us by purchasing our latest album: Warnings, Wisdom, and Wit, now available on our website, or anywhere you download music.
And of course, we also hope you and your friends will join us for our spring concerts, which we’ll be announcing in the new year!
Thank you for being a part of Ensemble Companio, and for helping us keep this incredible musical family singing.
With love and gratitude,
President, Ensemble Companio
As our 8th season comes to a close we have much to celebrate! We are thrilled to announce that thanks to our generous alumni donors Cailin Wilke, Evan Crawford, Mark Sayre, and an anonymous donor, every donation towards the Joseph Gregorio Artistic Director Fund up to $5,000 will be matched dollar for dollar, and any recurring gift will be matched at TWO to one!
Culminating his second season with Ensemble Companio, Artistic Director Erik Peregrine has embodied the ensemble’s mission to both grow and share our passion for musical excellence; and we are excited to report that thanks to his singular artistry, inspirational programming, and passionate leadership, Ensemble Companio has been selected as a finalist for the 2019 Community Chorus American Prize.
Ensemble Companio formed the Joseph Gregorio Artistic Director Fund in 2016 to give our community the opportunity to provide targeted support for our greatest and most important annual investment: musical leadership. Named in honor of Ensemble Companio’s visionary Founding Artistic Director, the Joseph Gregorio Artistic Director Fund was conceived to secure the future of the chorus for many years to come.
Our season ends June 30 and we are still striving to reach our season’s $15,000 fundraising goal. Consider making a gift to the Joseph Gregorio Artistic Director Fund today and help underwrite the artistic direction of our tomorrow and see your generosity matched at either 1:1 or at 2:1 for recurring gifts.
Thank you for supporting Ensemble Companio,
Art never exists in a vacuum; it is intimately tied to the human context in which it is made and observed. Choral music only comes into existence through the voices of living, breathing, phonating human beings – in Ensemble Companio’s case, twenty-five highly skilled singers with twenty-five sets of life experiences who converge once a month somewhere in the Northeastern United States. Then there’s the composer, the poet, the listeners (hopefully you!), the location, the date…
Our collective context is a nation grappling with its conscience.
As we move through each day, we are all faced with a constant barrage of choices: between love and fear, compassion and greed, to welcome or to withhold. In order to comprehend our full potential for good, we must also acknowledge our ability to harm. We must wrestle with the difficult parts of our psyches, the ugly faults we prefer to ignore, our capacities for cruelty and indifference. If we recognize that in each moment lies a choice, then we become aware that our destinies emerge through the aggregate of our choices – destinies extending beyond us as individuals into the courses of families, communities, nations, our species, our planet. Ripples of responsibility, for better or for worse, bond our fates to one another.
What if we all chose to love?
Perhaps it’s not that simple…but what if we believed it could be? How would we change by committing to love – in all of its forms, however small – again and again?
Failed Saints explores what it means to be human in a time of inhumanity, probing our mortal imperfections, our shared divinity, and ultimately our power to co-create the world as we wish it existed. Featuring the world premiere of two selections from Sarah Rimkus’s eponymous Failed Saints (as well as several regional and state premieres), other musical highlights include Alberto Ginastera’s Lamentations of Jeremiah, Saunder Choi’s The New Colossus, and works by Melissa Dunphy, Sydney Guillaume, Mari Ésabel Valverde, and Carol Barnett, among others. This music traverses the darkest and brightest parts of human experience, holding space along the way for rage, grief, transformation, catharsis, and healing.
In keeping with our mission of “building bridges”, I am thrilled to tell you that we’ll be joined in concert by VOICES Boston on Sunday, April 28th. We first met with these fantastic young singers last November and were so inspired by their poise, passion, and musical sophistication. I hope you’ll be able to join us; even if you’re outside the Boston area, it will assuredly be worth the journey.
If Boston is a little too far from home, I look forward to seeing you in New York (March 30th), Rhode Island (April 27th), or Philadelphia (May 11th) for this unique and powerful program.
With great love,
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
A belated Happy New Year to you all! I hope your 2018 is off to a great start. I have so much excitement and wonder as I pause to reflect upon the year to come with Ensemble Companio!
We recently kicked off our first rehearsal of 2018 in the Boston metro area – one that we weren’t entirely sure was going to happen as weather reports of winter storm Grayson began predicting the first “snowpocalypse” of the year. Our members braved bitter cold, delays and cancellations of plane, train, and automobile, and still made it to rehearsal on time and excited to sing. It was perhaps fitting that Mother Nature should make her presence known at her fiercest and most beautiful, in a musical season exploring themes of the natural world.
We are now midway through the season. This is my favorite point in the rehearsal process. By now, the notes and rhythms are beginning to feel like second nature, and we can begin the real work of bringing the stories the music holds on the page to life. To that end, our Artistic Director Erik Peregrine set aside time for us to discuss as a group what some of the pieces mean to us, and how they fit into the overarching theme of the concert, The Greening. It is incredible to me how words written by Hildegard of Bingen in the twelfth century, or by Don MacDonald in 2016, can equally inspire us today – how the themes of the human condition are timeless, and cyclical. By the end of rehearsal, Erik needed only remind us to think about the emotional intent behind a piece, and you could instantly hear how the music was elevated by refocusing our intentions. Getting that time to explore deeper meanings in the music is a luxury that is not always afforded to community choirs, but one that I think makes all the difference in musicality.
New member Ashley Prickel-Kane was our host for the weekend, welcoming us into her choir room at Walpole High School. Several of her students joined us in the afternoon to listen in on our rehearsal, followed by a Q&A session where the students were invited to discuss what they heard, and why they are drawn to choral singing. I smiled at how many of the reasons they gave – stress relief, making new friendships, exploring a love of music – could easily have been the answers a member of EC would give for why they sing. One student mentioned how she enjoying the unified sound of the choir, particularly how great it was to hear a full complement of tenor and basses (I don’t want to brag, but we have Walpole choir beat 10 to 5 in the tenor and bass sections). We finished out the day by sight reading selections from the Walpole choir’s repertoire together, which gave us a chance to fearlessly showcase our mastery of Russian with Pärt’s setting of Bogoroditse Devo (it helped that we had just sung the famous Rachmaninoff setting of the same text last season). It’s hard to tell who enjoyed the afternoon more: the young women of Walpole choir, or Ensemble Companio. Smiles, laughter, and joy was shared by all. It was exactly the kind of heart-warming needed on a blustery January Saturday.
Some Boston-area EC alumni also stopped in to say hello and catch up with members old and new. We always love seeing former and prospective members, and I would encourage you to reach out when we’ll be in your area! You have two more chances to catch us in rehearsal: February 3-4 in Brooklyn, NY, and March 3-4 in the Philadelphia metro. Drop us a line for more details, we’d love to see you!
To top off an incredible weekend, Erik stayed behind to work in some studio time, editing our album that was recorded at the end of season 5. We are so grateful to him for giving more of his time to help us finish and release our first studio album! Watch this space for updates about the release in the future.
Concert tickets will be going on sale soon! We hope you will join us on this musical journey of The Greening. Stay tuned for further concert announcements.
March 24, 7:30pm
Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, 152 W 66th St, New York, NY
Washington, DC – more info to come!
May 12, 7:00pm
St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 82 Shore Rd, Old Lyme, CT
On this shortest day of the year, it is with great joy that I write to you for the first time – and about the season’s music, no less!
Reflecting on repertoire over this past summer, themes of reincarnation kept insistently rising to the surface. This year clearly marks a new beginning for both Ensemble Companio and myself, but the excitement of fresh opportunities comes too with the acknowledgment that we are creating music together in volatile times. We may not know what the future holds, but we will (in all likelihood) still share the same earth.
As a Pacific Northwesterner, the natural world has always been a source of awe and inspiration to me. Wandering in the old growth rain forests I used to call home, one cannot help but be amazed at the beautiful intricacy of Life, each being governed by their own individual cycles but somehow also co-creating the great, green harmony of the woods. The ancient and the new feed each other. There is both overwhelming energy and profound stillness. St. Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic whose antiphon O Frondens Virga opens the second half of the program, describes this permeating life-essence as “viriditas”, or living greenness. Sitting near one of the many lakes close to my current home in Minneapolis, I was struck by the sameness of water, light, soil, and grasses – “viriditas” itself – across the thousands of miles now separating me from those dense forests; an apt metaphor for Ensemble Companio’s unusual rehearsal structure perhaps, but also the thread on which to pull for our first season together.
The Greening explores the parallels between human experience and the cycles of the natural world – through darkness into light, through winter into spring, through loss into renewal.
A blurring of opposites – old and new, sacred and secular, universal and highly personal – runs throughout the program; listeners will hear Josquin des Prez’s seamlessly cyclical Salve Regina alongside Edie Hill’s translucent We Bloomed in Spring, Tomás Luis de Victoria’s beloved O Vos Omnes alongside recent works by Jussi Chydenius and Don Macdonald, and Dale Trumbore’s Spiritus Mundi, a luminous setting of a text by contemporary poet Amy Fleury inspired by Renaissance composer Orlando de Lassus, among other gems. One particular under-performed jewel in this year’s repertoire is Abbie Betinis’ God of Owls, which sets an anonymous poet’s prayer that we may be prevented “from being blind to what we’re afraid to see” atop a thorny bramble of low voices and haunting bird calls. The course of the program meanders through awe, sadness, and mystery to hope and healing, meditating on the myriad ways we ourselves are reflected in nature throughout the journey.
Mark your calendars for The Greening:
March 24-25 – New York
April 28-29 – DC
May 12-13 – Connecticut shore
More specific information about locations, venues, etc. will be available in the new year, so be sure to keep an eye out for another note from us! As always, you are more than welcome to join us for one of our rehearsal weekends; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll provide you with more details about when we’ll be in your area.
Though today’s solstice marks the first official day of winter (which is certainly evident here in Minnesota!), it also marks the beginning of the sun’s gradual return. May you find peace and joy in each day’s growing light, and I hope to see you in a few short months for The Greening!
All my best,