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Mission Statement

Cantilena, a women’s chorus, is dedicated to encouraging and promoting the composition, study, and performance of choral music written for the treble voice. Cantilena strives to introduce both its members and an increasingly wider audience to works they are unlikely to encounter in other forums, with an emphasis on music composed specifically for women's voices. 


To elevate and expand the choral canon of works written by women, Cantilena crafts innovative programs, funds new commissions, and aims to broaden the choral audience through community outreach, public partnerships, and public events.


Cantilena performs a wide range of works from the classical repertoire, both old and new; more recently highlighting and commissioning works that address today's social and environmental issues.


Cantilena welcomes and celebrates individual identities in all of its activities and operations, including (but not limited to) race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, marital status, and sexual orientation.


History (About Us)


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 changed its name to Cantilena to more appropriately reflect its identity. 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.

Past Repertoire (Highlights)


Over the years, Cantilena has premiered many new works, including “Fire in the Garden: a climate change trilogy” by Giselle Wyers (2020), performed in 2021; "Of a Sun She Can Remember" by Ellen Gilson Voth (2019), and "Jabberwocky" (2012) by Scott Wheeler. From the group of Composers in Red Sneakers, new works written for Cantilena include Roger Bourland’s “Dickinson Madrigals” (Book II), Brian Holmes’ “Let Evening Come” among many others, and last but not least, Director Emeritus Kenneth Seitz’s treasured volume of compositions and arrangements, including “Three Heartfelt Songs” (2002). Cantilena features the works of women composers including “Lifting As We Climb” a collaborative integrated with community by Joan Szymko (2023), ”Anne Frank: a Living Voice” by Linda Tutas-Haugen (2019) as well as songs in the choral cannon by Amy Beach, Abbie Betinis, Margaret Bonds, Mabel Daniels, Emma Lou Diemer, Joselyn Hagen, Sarah Quartel, and Gwyneth Walker.

Cantilena is a member or grant recipient of the following arts organizations:​​

  • Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture (Arts Arlington)

  • Mass Cultural Council

  • Chorus America

  • Choral Arts New England

  • Greater Boston Choral Consortium

  • 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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