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
Dear Friends and Family,
Ensemble Companio is now excitedly looking forward to our fifth season. In the spirit of a “Throwback Thursday,” we wanted to thank you for all you did to make our fourth season so wonderful.
Thank you for supporting Ensemble Companio through a very successful 2015 concert season!
The text from Duruflé’s Ubi Caritas, one of the works we sang last season, is “Ubi caritas at amor, Deus ibi est,” which translates to “Where there is charity and love, God is there.” This captures what I’ve felt about Ensemble Companio from the very beginning: when people who care for one another travel a long way to make something beautiful, it’s an incredibly uplifting—and yes, even spiritual—experience. Regardless of why and how each of us comes to sing with Ensemble Companio, we all have people in the wings: parents who cheer us on, spouses who listen to us practicing and welcome our tired selves back on Sunday nights, neighbors who watch the kids for a weekend, and friends and family who share and spread our enthusiasm. When we gather together for two days every month, it is very much an effort that reaches beyond the singers.
Megan Lemley (alto, Development Chair), Inès Thieme (soprano, past President), Christina Wallace (soprano, Communications Chair), and Julia Hillabrant (alto) share a moment before the Ridgewood, NJ concert in April.
One amazing example of that last season was your overwhelming response to our Annual Campaign, which raised more than $12,000 (and blew away our $10,000 goal)! You helped us build a stronger foundation and presented us with new opportunities, including the initiation of a fund to support singers’ travel, childcare, and other seasonal expenses. On behalf of the officers, I would like to express our joy at being able to offer such support to our singers and our optimism in increasing this support yearly. I hope that, in return, you joined us for a concert and allowed us to share our gratitude through song.
Mikey Steiger (tenor), Evan Crawford (bass, General Manager), Michael Raffaele (bass, Ensemble Advocate), and Greg Pratt (tenor, Secretary) provide a backstage “interlude” between sets.
I’d also like to announce the appointment of Evan Crawford and Christina Wallace to the positions of General Manager and Communications Chair, respectively. Both just completed their first year of singing with Ensemble Companio and jumped right into leadership positions! We are grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm of these two and are excited to work with them to steer Ensemble Companio into this season and beyond.
Finally, for those of you who attended our Brooklyn or Ridgewood concerts, you’ll remember our encore performance of Il bianco e dolce cigno. At the request of an audience member, at our last concert of the season in Philadelphia, we instead closed with “In My Life” and invited the audience to join us. It was such a special encore that we wanted to share it with all of you.
Please join us again in song this season, which includes concerts planned in April and May 2016. The theme will be “Warnings, Widsom, and Wit”, and we can’t wait to see you in the audience! In the meantime (and as always), I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
All my best,
Dear Friends and Family,
The end of the year is upon us, whether we’re ready or not.
I’ve finally come to believe what my parents have been telling me for years: the more living you do, the more quickly time passes. It’s for this reason that, regardless of whether or not I’m in the right “mood” for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’ve made an effort in recent years to immerse myself in the season. Even when I feel that December has arrived too early—when I haven’t finished all my tasks at work or accomplished my goals for the year—it’s being surrounded by family and friends, enjoying good food and wine, sitting near a fire in the fireplace, and hearing joyful music that make the season real. Once I’m truly “tuned in,” gratitude comes easily for the year’s opportunities and friends, for my successes, failures, and lessons learned.
Ensemble Companio has much to be thankful for in 2014: several fabulous new singers; a fantastic master class with world-renowned American composer, arranger and conductor Alice Parker; the chance to perform in new cities and venues; and an ever-growing circle of support from our audiences and fans. We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve had the privilege of sharing with one another and look forward to what the future will bring.
In my experience, new possibilities for Ensemble Companio have occasionally arisen from unlikely places. This autumn, I had the great fortune to travel to Portugal and Switzerland for work. While in Carouge, a town just south of Geneva, I found myself in an illustrator’s studio looking for a thank-you card. When I explained that I was in a choir and wanted to thank someone who had given us advice, the artist’s face lit up and she began to ask me all sorts of questions about Ensemble Companio: How large was the choir? How long had we been in existence? What sort of music did we sing? And would we be performing in Switzerland? I was delighted at her warm, immediate interest! As I answered her queries as best I could in my rusty French, I explained that we were a regional American choir, but that one day we did indeed hope to perform outside the Northeastern US.
We’d love to present concerts in such places as Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, and yes, perhaps even Europe and Asia. In fact, we’ve received invitations to perform in many of these places already. We don’t currently have the financial means to tour, but it’s definitely on our wish list (along with many more immediate things, like paying for music licensing fees, venue rental, and singers’ childcare during rehearsals). As you’ve undoubtedly seen, last month we kicked off our first annual Drive to Sing to raise $10,000. Thanks to your generosity, we’re well on our way to meeting that goal by the end of our 2014-2015 season. The Matching Gift Challenge has provided an additional incentive to give before the end of the year, and I do hope you’ll consider it.
In the near future, however, we will do our utmost to bring you authentic, inspiring performances of the finest choral music in locations throughout the Northeast. Our rehearsals through the 2015 concert season will include:
January 10-11, 2015 at Union Memorial Chapel at Union College in Schenectady, NY
(we’ll present a free mini concert Sunday at 12:30pm)
February 7, 2015 at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, NJ
February 8, 2015 at Mount Saint Mary Academy in Watchung, NJ
March 7, 2015 at Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, CT
March 8, 2015 at Atria Stamford in Stamford, CT (we’ll present a free mini concert at 11:30am)
We always welcome your listening in on our rehearsals. As a reminder, our Saturday, March 21, 2015 concert will be in Brooklyn, NY, and our Sunday, April 19, 2015 concert will be in Ridgewood, NJ. As soon as we finalize our May 2015 concert, I will let you know!
Happy Holidays from Ensemble Companio! (Video: Ben Lowe)
Thank you once again for your enthusiasm and support for Ensemble Companio—we are ever so grateful for you. As always, I look forward to reading your thoughts and suggestions at email@example.com