Posts

From Winter to The Greening: A Message from the President

Dear friends,

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.

(Photo: Ashley Prickel-Kane)

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.

(Photo: Ashley Prickel-Kane)

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.

The Greening

March 24, 7:30pm
Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, 152 W 66th St, New York, NY

April 28/29
Washington, DC – more info to come!

May 12, 7:00pm
St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 82 Shore Rd, Old Lyme, CT

With love,

A Holiday Message from the President

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.

Alice Parker Workshop

Alice Parker and Director Joseph Gregorio celebrate a wonderful master class at Swarthmore College. (Photo: Ben Lowe)

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.

One day.

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.

Percho Choir Edit 2

A gorgeous choral thank-you card from Switzerland!           (Card: Percho)

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 president@ensemblecompanio.org.  May you find yourself surrounded by family, friends, and beautiful music this holiday season.

Warmest wishes,

Cailin

CMW

A New Bridge

We built a wonderful new bridge last weekend.

Thanks to a grant from ACDA-PA, Ensemble Companio was fortunate enough to welcome the legendary composer, arranger, conductor, and song-leader Alice Parker for a three-hour workshop with us at Swarthmore College.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our singers to receive guidance from a master teacher and luminary in the fields of choral music and folk singing.  Alice opened her heart and mind to us, and led the singers with supreme generosity and authority in impromptu singing of folk music and in her own arrangements of American hymn tune Wondrous Love and French folksong Auprès de ma blonde.

Read more

This is Your Chance!

We’re recruiting tenors and basses for our 2014-2015 season! If you are (or someone you know is) a talented singer and love(s) to travel, please let us know by sending us a message using the form below. We can’t wait to hear from you! Read more

A Peek Inside Ensemble Companio

I came to Ensemble Companio as a mid-season replacement – an always nerve-wracking experience. Would I be able to learn all of the music in time for performances? Could I fit in with an established group that had already been working and performing together?  At the first rehearsal, everyone in the group welcomed me with open arms, and I immediately felt like we were all old friends. The weekend intensive rehearsals have become a welcome retreat that I look forward to all month. And the music-making? In my 15 years of choral singing, both professionally and not,  I have never experienced an equal to the quality of the singing we do in EC. I have never attempted to sing choral music from memory before, and now that I have, using the score almost feels like cheating! There is something truly magical that happens when 24 people come together to make music with nothing but Joe’s skilled baton between us and the audience. We listen, we communicate, we connect with ourselves and the audience in a way that’s truly exciting!