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 the15th 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 a member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, a cooperative association of diverse choral groups in Boston and the surrounding areas.
Cantilena is delighted that our dear friend and past artistic director Allegra Martin is returning as Interim Music Director this Fall 2021.
Dr. Allegra Martin is the Director of College Choirs at Holy Cross. During the 2020-2021 academic year she also served as the Interim Orchestra Director. Previous positions have included Director of Music at First Parish Cohasset, Artistic Director of the Cantilena Women’s Chorale, Chorus Director at Lasell College, and a Choral Artist with
the Urban Voices Program of the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Dr. Martin holds degrees from Williams College and Westminster Choir College, and a doctorate from the University of Illinois. At the University of Illinois, she founded and conducted the University Mixed Chorus. Her research specialty is the choral music of Margaret Bonds. She presented on the topic of diversity in programming at the online Oxford University Conducting Institute in June 2021.
Dr. Martin is also an active professional singer, and was one of the founders of Anthology, a women’s vocal quartet that performed in the greater Boston area for six years and commissioned 22 works of new music in that time. She currently sings with the Schola Cantorum of Boston and in the past has sung with such ensembles as Cappella Clausura, and the Video Game Orchestra. While at the University of Illinois, she performed Julia Wolfe’s award-winning Anthracite Fields with Bang on a Can and Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans with the Venice Baroque Orchestra. While at Westminster, she sang with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as in opera productions at the U.S. Spoleto Festival. In the summer of 2016 she performed in Britten’s War Requiem with Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.