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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

  • Arts Arlington

  • Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture

  • Choral Arts New England

  • Boston Singers Resource

Our Artistic Director

Our Artistic Director

Cantilena is thrilled to welcome Elinor Armsby as our new Artistic 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

Our Collaborative Pianist

Allyson Cahill bw headshot

Cantilena welcomes our 2023-24 Collaborative Pianist
Allyson Cahill


Allyson Cahill has been an accompanist of choirs for over 10 years, and is thrilled to be working with Cantilena for their 2023-2024 season.


Allyson is a student at UMass Lowell in the process of finishing her degree in Sound Recording Technology. While at UML, she has studied jazz and classical piano, and accompanied many fellow students in juries and recitals. Currently, Allyson serves as the organist at St. John the Evangelist Church in Cambridge.

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