Introducing Terpsichore Ensemble!
On Monday, August 30, ten singers gathered together at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City to sight-read through an assortment of music, ranging from Renaissance motets by Byrd, Lusitano, and Victoria to contemporary works by Reena Esmail, Shireen Abu Khader, Mark Miller, and Caroline Shaw. With that reading session (and the pizza and wine that followed), Terpsichore Ensemble was born.
I first dreamed up the idea of Terpsichore back in mid-2020, at the height of the pandemic shutdown and when live choral music was still a seemingly-distant memory from The Before Times. During those bleak and monotonous days, I found myself being drawn to Renaissance music in a way that I had never experienced before; the solemnity, austerity, and clarity of this style suddenly leapt off the page and felt more urgent and immediate. At the same time, as someone who has long championed music by contemporary composers and (especially in recent months) music by marginalized voices, I felt that these contrasting genres would compliment each other.
As 2020 dragged on, I attended several virtual conferences and interest sessions about the need to reimagine concert music, both in the wake of the pandemic and (perhaps more importantly) in response to ongoing institutional violence committed against people of color and the LGBTQ community. Then in early 2021 I attended the virtual American Choral Directors Association conference and heard an inspiring talk by composer/arranger/conductor/educator Marques L. A. Garrett, who introduced some outstanding and relatively unknown works by choral composers from the African diaspora, ranging from Renaissance motets to contemporary gems. Right as live music was beginning to return to the concert hall, there was a clarion call to rethink the choral music canon. As I said to my choirs then, there is opportunity in adversity, and I promised to them and myself that I would seize the moment and do my part to uplift marginalized and minority voices.
So that's where we are now - Terpsichore Ensemble (named for the muse and goddess of choral singing and dance) is a professional chamber chorus dedicated to performing music from the Renaissance and from the last 100 years. And, proudly, we are intentional about featuring music from women, BIPOC, and LGTBQ composers from all time periods. Our singers all share this mission, and we believe that by using our platform as performers to effect change in the concert hall, we can also help elevate underrepresented voices and be prophetic in this new age.
The amazing singers of Terpsichore are all brilliant performers, many of whom are also gifted conductors, directors, or teachers as well. Even more significantly, they are incredible human beings, some of whom I've known for 5, 10, or even 15+ years, and I'm absolutely delighted and honored that they've joined me in this new endeavor. I can't wait to get started on our first concert in early 2022, and I look forward to sharing our exciting work with you in the weeks and months to come!