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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,

New Beginnings: A message from Ensemble Companio

 

 

 

 

 

Dear friends,

A new season is upon us, and with that, some new faces and new beginnings! My name is Mikey Steiger, and after four seasons of singing in the tenor section, I am joining the Board as the third President of Ensemble Companio (I’ll still moonlight as a tenor – never fear!).

Last weekend, we began our seventh season by welcoming our new Artistic Director, Erik Peregrine, into the Ensemble Companio family. After a long and productive day of charging fearlessly through the repertoire for this year, we gathered for the traditional dinner and fellowship at a nearby member’s house. Our Founding Director, Joe Gregorio, stopped by with his family, and there in the kitchen (where everything important seems to happen), Joe and Erik met for the first time and greeted each other with open arms. It was a moment of pure happiness and deep gratitude from both. A passing of the batons, from the founder of the group who brought us together and set us on our path, to the new director, whose artistic vision will carry us into the future.

I was immediately transported back to my first rehearsal with Ensemble Companio, in our third season. What I remember most about that first day was the welcome I received, which from the moment I walked in the door was warm, joyful, and all-encompassing. It was like discovering “old friends who’ve just met,” if I may borrow a line from The Muppet Movie. I’ve sung in many different choirs for nearly 20 years now, but never before have I felt so instantly, completely at home as I did and continue to feel from my very first moments with this group. In that moment 4 years ago, and again last weekend, I felt a joy and excitement that I hadn’t expected.

The truth is, I practically had to drag myself to rehearsal last weekend. Stories of anger, of division, of terrible natural disasters and destruction left in their path have been the top headlines this summer. At times, a feeling of hopelessness and despair has drained me to the very core these past few weeks. As Saturday approached, the idea of traveling hours from home and giving up my free time to spend poring over new scores seemed overwhelming, the complete opposite of self-preservation.

It turns out that it was. By which I mean that turning inward was not what I needed at all. I needed to sing, to discover beautiful music that I never knew existed. I needed to forge connections with our new director and new members, and renew those with returning members. By the end of a weekend spent with my amazing fellow singers and our inspiring new Artistic Director, my heart was full to bursting with joy, laughter, and song.

Every year, we form and reform this community of singers – each time new, and yet always somehow the same. As I returned home, I felt open to the world again, ready to face the challenges the next week would present, with a future that has never looked brighter. That is the power of music. That is the power of love, shared with friends old and new. That is the power of community. That is Ensemble Companio.

I am so excited about this season that we are making, friends! I can’t wait to share it with you.

With love,

Throwback Thursday with our President

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.

EC Women

 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.

 

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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 president@ensemblecompanio.org.

All my best,

Cailin

CMW