Cantilena, a women’s chorale, is an ensemble of approximately 30 singers, dedicated to performing music written for the treble voice. Our challenging and diverse repertoire spans the 15th to the 21st centuries and includes works in many different languages and musical forms. We strive to introduce both our members and our audience to works they are unlikely to encounter in other forums, with an emphasis on music composed specifically for women’s voices. Allegra Martin, whose passion for women’s choral music matches our own, was selected to succeed director Kenneth Seitz, who retired after 31 years of outstanding musical leadership in 2009. In line with Ms. Martin’s interest in new music, under her direction, Cantilena has commissioned and premiered works by Michael Veloso and Seitz, and in May 2013 we will premier a setting of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” an exciting new commission from Scott Wheeler. Over the years, Cantilena has premiered many new works, notably Roger Bourland’s Dickinson Madrigals (Book II), which were dedicated to us, and several pieces by California composer Brian Holmes. Director Emeritus Kenneth Seitz composed and arranged music for Cantilena on a regular basis, including Three Heartfelt Songs, commissioned in 2002, and featured on our first CD, New England Voices. Our newly-released CD, An American Christmas, features holiday compositions by a wide array of American composers, including, among others, Margaret Bonds, Daniel Pinkham, Seitz, and Randall Thompson. Cantilena was founded in 1968 as the Cambridge Chorale, an ensemble of mixed (SATB) voices. In 1980 the group became a women’s chorus, and in 2000 we changed our name to Cantilena to more appropriately reflect our identity as women’s chorale. The name means, at its simplest level, a song, or a style of music where the melody is in the treble line.
Allegra Martin, Director
Now in her fourth year as director of Cantilena, Allegra Martin is active in the Boston area as a conductor, singer, and teacher. Drawing on her particular interests in women’s music and new music, she has garnered notice for her inventive programming with Cantilena, exploring the music of Gwyneth Walker, Zae Munn, and Elizabeth Alexander, and commissioning new pieces whenever possible. Ms. Martin holds a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from Westminster Choir College, as well as a BA in physics and music from Williams College. She has studied conducting with Joseph Flummerfelt, James Jordan, and Andrew Megillah, among others. In addition to her work with Cantilena, she is music director at First Parish Cohasset, and on the faculty at Lasell College. As a vocalist, Ms. Martin is a founding member of Anthology, a professional women’s quartet. She also sings with Schola Cantorum, and has performed with the New York Philharmonic and at the Spoleto Festival USA. In her blog, which she writes as Current Conductor, Ms. Martin focuses on all things choral.