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. 

                                “Alleluia!”

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

COVID-19

Dear friends,

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: president@ensemblecompaino.org.

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

From the Director: Journeys

Dear friends,

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 aremore often than notguests 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, tofor a timeallow 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,

Erik Peregine
Artistic Director

CompComp Winner Announcement

Why I Sing: A Message from the President

Ensemble Companio

Dear friends,

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,

Mikey Steiger
President, Ensemble Companio