Photo © Hendrik Broekman
The Oriana Consort
P.O. Box 381608
Cambridge MA 02238
Walter Chapin, Director
Caroline Harvey, Assistant Director & Accompanist
Katie Aburizik, Melanie Armstrong, Michael Bennett, Laura Betinis, Paul Bombardier, Thomas Carroll, Laura Frye, Hailey Fuqua, Gary Gengo, Caroline Harvey, Ben Henry-Moreland, Elizabeth Huttner-Loan, Elise Krob, Kathryn Low, Dennis O'Brien, Christopher Pitt, Nate Ramsayer, Joe Rondeau, Margaret Ronna, Seth Rosenberger, Felicity Salmon, Claire Shepro, Stefán Sigurjónsson, Terri Sly, Irl Smith, Vale Southard, Lauren Syer, Tyler Turner, Nic Tuttle, Matthew Wall
The Oriana Consort is a non-profit corporation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation under Federal IRS law. The group is funded by individual tax-deductible contributions and concert receipts.
The Oriana Consort Logo
The image in the Oriana Consort Logo is based upon the concluding flourish in the signature of Queen Elizabeth I of England, to whom Thomas Morley, in 1601, dedicated his madrigal collection The Triumphes of Oriana.
History of the Oriana Consort
During the 1970's, Walter Chapin directed two community choruses in Boston's southern suburbs. In the summer of 1979, ten members of one of these groups, the Pro Arte Singers, met informally under his direction to prepare a performance at a summer arts festival in Scituate on the South Shore. During each of the twenty-five seasons since then, a direct successor of that unnamed and inauspicious little ensemble has gathered to rehearse and perform a cappella choral music. Through a process of continual metamorphosis, today's Oriana Consort stands in direct descent from that group of the summer of 1979.
In the spring of 1980, as the parent Pro Arte Singers was in the process of disbanding, the tiny ensemble regrouped. The Pro Arte Consort, as it was now called, continued to perform through the mid-1980's at South Shore summer arts festivals, public libraries, and Christmas church events. The group appeared at the Swain School of Design in New Bedford and at a gathering in Boston to honor the late Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.
In the mid-1980's the ensemble added further Boston-area performances to its usual South Shore venues, in performing occasionally at the Tuesday Noon Hour Recitals at King's Chapel, at a folk music festival in Cambridge, and at a Museum of Fine Arts event.
In 1987 the group stabilized as an octet, with a repertory drawn predominantly from music of the Renaissance. Occasional recorder and lute accompaniments were provided by several of the members. In this form the group continued with its regular South Shore performances at Christmastime and in the spring, an occasional wedding service, an appearance at a private entertainment now and then, performances at the Cambridge Public Library and at a Boston antique shop (!), and further recitals at the King's Chapel Tuesday Noon Hour series.
In 1994 there was a desire to expand the membership in order to have forces sufficient to perform contemporary choral music as well as music of the Renaissance. The membership grew from 8 to 12. The center of the group's venues shifted from the South Shore to Cambridge and the western suburbs, and its name became The Oriana Consort. Since English madrigals had always been a staple of the group's repertory, the group took its new name from The Triumphes of Oriana, a collection of English madrigals published by the composer Thomas Morley in 1601 in homage to Queen Elizabeth I, in which the lyrics of each madrigal referred to the monarch by her code name of "Oriana".
Whenever the group had needed new members, they had been recruited informally through personal contacts. In the fall of 1997, however, it was agreed that if the group were to continue to prosper, the rich resources of greater Boston's community of choral singers would have to be tapped. New members began to be recruited by audition. The membership grew to 16, then to 20 between 1998 and 2000.
In 1999 the Oriana Consort found a rehearsal home in Cambridge's Swedenborg Chapel, a beautiful 1901 edifice which is both an excellent acoustic space and an architectural gem. Concerts settled into the pattern of six performances per season, in Lexington, Cambridge, and Brookline or Boston -- three performances each of two different programs.
Special invitations began to be extended: the Consort was one of the performing groups in the Vox Humana concert series at St. John's Church in Jamaica Plain in 1999, in the King's Chapel Concert Series in 2000, and in the Candlelight Concert Series at Hingham's historic Old Ship Church in 2003.
With the 2004-2005 season, the ensemble has achieved its latest and final expansion. With six or seven singers on each voice part, the group's size is now ideal. It is still small enough to project the intimate sound needed for madrigals and motets, yet large enough to perform significant contemporary works that often require divisi up to SSAATTBB.
The group's repertory over the last decade includes music of great composers of the Renaissance, such as Dufay, Ockegehm, Josquin, Lassus, Monteverdi, Victoria, Tallis, Byrd, Morley, and Weelkes; of the early and late Baroque, such as Praetorius, Hassler, Scheidt, Schein, Schutz, and J. S. Bach; of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Brahms, Verdi, Debussy, Stanford, Ives, and Ravel; and of the middle and late twentieth century, such as Barber, Britten, Thompson, Copland, Fine, Bernstein, Argento, Tormis, Pinkham, and Carter. To give variety to the Consort's basic a cappella sound, Baroque pieces are often accompanied by a small ensemble of period instruments, and many pieces on each program provide an opportunity for the group's soloists to be heard.
The group's metamorphosis from a ten-member pickup ensemble at a 1979 arts festival into the Oriana Consort of today would not have been possible without the dedication and involvement of each of its members, nor without the deep commitment of each member to the art of a cappella singing and a reverence of each for its beauty.
The Oriana Consort's members are professional and semi-professional singers from Greater Boston's choral music community. Many are soloists. In both rehearsal and performance, each member contributes his or her skill in a cappella singing: the ability to carry a voice part independently while simultaneously tuning to the pitch of the ensemble and to its every expressive nuance, without instrumental accompaniment. This kind of singing, "in the manner of the chapel" -- discovered and developed centuries ago by the choirs of the cathedrals of Europe -- brings to the listener's ear the beautiful, transporting, and sublime sound of unaccompanied voices.
Walter Chapin, 2004