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From the Director: An invitation to The Greening

Dear friends,

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.

Minneapolis, MN, just before a summer thunderstorm. (Photo: Erik Peregrine)

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 info@ensemblecompanio.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,

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.

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