Cantilena, a women's chorale, is an ensemble of approximately 40 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.
Cantilena welcomes and celebrates individual identities, including but not limited to their race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in all of our activities or operations.
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. Cantilena is based in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Over the years, Cantilena has premiered many new works, including "Of a Sun She Can Remember" by Ellen Gilson Voth, and "Jabberwocky" by Scott Wheeler. Roger Bourland dedicated his Dickinson Madrigals (Book II) to us. California composer Brian Holmes has written several pieces for us, and former director Kenneth Seitz composed and arranged music for Cantilena on a regular basis, including Three Heartfelt Songs, commissioned by us in 2002. We have also featured the works of women composers including Amy Beach, Margaret Bonds, Mabel Daniels, and Emma Lou Diemer; noted New England composers Arthur Foote, Horatio Parker and Edward MacDowell; as well as the music of better-known composers such as Brahms, Faure, Britten, Holst and Schubert.
Cantilena is an active member of and has been sponsored by multiple local, state, and regional organizations:
Greater Boston Choral Consortium
Mass Cultural Council
Choral Arts New England
Boston Singers Resource
Our Music Director
Cantilena is thrilled to welcome Elinor Armsby as our new Music Director, starting in Spring 2022.
Elinor A. Armsby (“Ellie”) has been active as a choral conductor and clinician in Massachusetts and the Philadelphia area for over twenty years. In addition to her appointment as Artistic Director of Cantilena, she currently serves as Music Director at First Church in Marlborough UCC. Previously, she has served as Music Director of the Northborough Area Community Chorus, Artistic Director for the Rainbow Chorale of Delaware, Director of Music at First United Methodist Church of Germantown (PA) and Director of Choirs at Philadelphia's Central High School. Ellie has been praised for her success in working with singers at all levels and her ability to create interesting programs showcasing music from diverse repertoires.
She received her undergraduate training in voice at Indiana University and her master's degree in Choral Conducting and Music History from Temple University. In addition to her conducting activities, Ellie is an active composer and the owner and president of Hildegard Publishing Company, a publisher of concert music by women composers.
Our Collaborative Pianist
Kelvyn Koning joined Cantilena as our collaborative pianist, starting in the Fall semester of 2021.
Kelvyn Koning (he/they) specializes in composing for choir and theatre and performing as a countertenor and pianist. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Composition from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI and a Master of Music in Composition from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Kelvyn has been commissioned to write pieces for Boston Latin School, Zeeland HS, Batesville HS, the Da Camera Singers, Quorum, and the Oriana Consort. His latest works include two full-length musicals, The Glassblower’s Daughter at the Regent Theater in Arlington, MA, and The Prince and the Painter with Moonbox Productions.
Kelvyn is a founding member of the Nightingale Vocal Ensemble, for whom he sings and composes music, and has also sung with the Calvin Alumni Choir, Quorum, and the Oriana Consort. He performed as a soloist at the Beaver Island Baroque Festival in his home state of Michigan and has premiered several new vocal and piano works by his friends in Boston. Kelvyn accompanies voice lessons, choirs, and musical theatre at Boston Latin School and Boston Conservatory and plays piano as a soloist and accompanist around Boston. During the COVID era, he was challenged to record music weekly - a vulnerable and enriching experience - and to compose children’s musicals and choral music regularly from his studio. Kelvyn’s vision is to foster empathy, healing, and social justice for individuals and communities through music.