From the Director: Heavenly Home
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
From the Director: Reflections on Season 10
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,
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: firstname.lastname@example.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
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,
From the Director: Failed Saints
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,
Announcing our new Assistant Conductor: Michael Weinberg!
We are very excited to welcome Michael Weinberg to Ensemble Companio as our first Assistant Conductor. As we begin our fifth season and we continue to grow in many ways, we are elated to be able to add this role to our musical staff, alongside Artistic Director Joseph Gregorio and Vocal Coach Julie Gregorio.
Originally from the Washington, DC area, Michael Weinberg is a versatile conductor, singer, and teacher based in Boston, MA. He has appeared with numerous professional organizations, including the Oregon Bach Festival, The Philadelphia Singers, and Washington National Opera, and has performed in many prestigious venues across the United States and Europe. He recently made his solo debut in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center with the Yale Schola Cantorum under the direction of Masaaki Suzuki. Equally passionate about teaching as well as performing, Weinberg is currently Visiting Director of Music of the Commonwealth School (Boston), and has previously served as a teaching assistant and conductor of various collegiate and high school ensembles. His conducting teachers include Marguerite Brooks, Jeffrey Douma, David Hill, Paul Rardin, and Thea Kano. He holds an M.M. in choral conducting from Temple University, a B.M. summa cum laude in vocal performance from The Catholic University of America, and has completed the course requirements for the D.M.A. in choral conducting from Yale University.
But enough from us – let’s let Michael introduce himself!
It is my pleasure to introduce myself to you and say how excited I am to join the Ensemble Companio family as their first Assistant Conductor! Having already experienced one rehearsal weekend, family is the best word I can use to describe Ensemble Companio. Throughout the weekend I heard heartwarming stories of singers gathering in between rehearsal weekends, attending one another’s weddings, or supporting those experiencing difficult times. Though many members knew each other before joining EC, they make everyone feel welcome and a part of the family from the very beginning.
During my interview and audition for the position, I asked the members who were present why they choose to sing in a group such as this, one where you give up an entire weekend per month and travel a couple, or sometimes several hours away for rehearsal. For most, it is the special bond of music that drives their dedication to the ensemble. Being in EC provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in music making for a whole weekend, kind of like going to District or All-State chorus in high school once a month, only on a smaller scale and with people who become your close friends. Many community choruses focus on large choral/orchestral works and may contain upwards of 100-200 singers, compared to singing with a chamber ensemble like EC, which focuses on a cappella singing and allows for a more intimate music-making experience.
I’m very grateful to Joe Gregorio for this opportunity, and I’m looking forward to a fantastic year of working with and learning from him and the rest of Ensemble Companio. I also hope to meet many of you at our concerts in April and May!