Ensemble Companio is sailing into its fifth season with the wind at its back.
There is much that is as true of Ensemble Companio now as it was five years ago. We remain wholly committed to and guided by our mission of building bridges between people through authentic, inspiring performances of the finest choral music. We still travel from all over the northeast United States to make music together one weekend per month. We still fuel all of our hard work with delicious muffins baked by soprano section leader Elena Gregorio.
Yet much has changed since we embarked on our first season five years ago. We’ve grown from comprising twenty-one singers in our inaugural season to a group of twenty-seven as we start our fifth. We have hired our first-ever assistant conductor, Michael Weinberg. Thanks to our first annual — and very successful — Drive To Sing fundraising campaign spearheaded by Development Chair and alto Megan Lemley, we have been able to institute what we’re calling a Member Experience Fund, designed to help defray our musicians’ travel and logistical expenses associated with membership in Ensemble Companio. And before the present season began, our officers plotted all sorts of exciting opportunities and goals for the group that would have been all but unthinkable five years ago.
When I meditate on how far we have come in five years, and then think about where the group is bound, I’m overcome with a sense of almost limitless possibility. I also feel deep gratitude toward all the supporters, venues, volunteers, and singers and officers past and present who helped us not merely to stay afloat but to make waves while connecting with hundreds of listeners over the last half decade. We have taught ourselves a great deal while navigating uncharted waters, but we have also benefited greatly from the advice of artistic directors, officers, board members, and singers from more established ensembles — for all of which I am likewise thankful.
Our listeners this season will soon be getting some counsel of their own — in musical form. Warnings, Wisdom, and Wit grew from an idea I had a few years ago to put together a program of works through which composers and/or writers of text give caution, dispense moral advice, or make pithy observations about society and life. Listeners will hear an ancient monodic French song called “L’homme armé” (“The armed man”) warning the listener about one bearing arms, and a movement from a Mass by French Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay that weaves this monophonic song into the fabric of his polyphonic composition. There will be other sacred works by nineteenth-century German composer Anton Bruckner and late-nineteenth-/early-twentieth-century English composer Charles Villiers Stanford as well. We’ll also perform a piece by contemporary Pennsylvania-based composer Kala Pierson on a Shakespeare text about love; arrangements of folk music from Colombia, England, Ireland, and Mexico; shape-note music from The Sacred Harp; an arrangement of a poignant warning from French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel about the effect technology can have on communication and memory; and more. Each work on the program is in part or in whole an exhortation or a lesson, be it serious or silly, about how we might best chart a course through life.
I hope that your course will include a stop at one of our concerts this spring. If you can’t make it to a concert, e-mail us about dropping by one of our rehearsals, which are held throughout the northeast United States and which are always open. We look forward to sharing Warnings, Wisdom, and Wit with you!
(And if you’re wondering whence comes all the nautical talk: Though I’ve always thought that a ship is an excellent metaphor for a musical ensemble, I think it owes more at the moment to the fact that this season our tenors and basses will be singing Alice Parker and Robert Shaw’s arrangement of sea chanty What shall we do with the drunken sailor — and that I simply cannot get the tune out of my head!)