An Informal History of Convivium Musicum
Music Directors over the years:
Michael Barrett (2007 – present)
Scott Metcalfe (1996 – 2007)
David Tiedman (1995 – 1996)
David Hodgkins (1989 – 1995)
Mary Greer (1988 – 1989)
Our singers over the years:
Michelle Abadia, Darryl Abbey, Sascha Adler, Julie Anderson, Carole Baden, Charles Bailyn, Debra Basile, Kathy Benforado, Erik Bertrand, Matt Bester, Susan Bisson, Jaime Bonney, David Bono, Ron Boucher, Evan Boudreau, David Boundy, Nadine Braunstein, Ed Brennan, Harriet Bridges, Mark Bucciarelli, Noah Bullock, Louisa Burnham, Hannah Carr, Chris Chase, Siobhan Climer, Catherine Conner, Brendan Daly, Michael Dettelbach, Anand Dharan, Heath Dill, Forest Dillon, Sue Donaldson, Jennifer Eddy, Gabriel Ellsworth, Gretje Ferguson, Matthew Follette, Verena Forcher, Saul Frankford, Roger Frymire, Chris Gerstner, David Gilbert, Anney Gillotte, David Gillman, Daniel Gostin, Bugra Giritlioglu, Barry Goldberg, Sarah Gore, Tomas Guillermo, Kate Gyllensvard, Liz Hanna, David Halstead, Laura Henderson, Ashley Hewitt, Bobbie Hill, Whit Hill, Dylan Hillerbrand, Megan Holt, Sarah Horr, Doug Hunt, Evan Ingersoll, Kristina Jackson, Sarah Jackson, Marni Jacobs, Phil Jensen, Anneli Johansson, Anne Kazlauskas, Christina Kelly, Daniel Kelly, Annette Kim, Uchin Kim, Gregory King, Cindy Knight, Jeff Kline, Ron Lacro, Rolf Larson, Christopher Laumer, Patricia Laurie, Ann Lawthers, Paula Lerner, Mark Leuning, Alex Lewin, Cynthia Linkas, Cindy Liu, Mara MacMillan, Zoe Madonna, Louisa Malkin, Sudie Marcuse, Carol Marton, Polly Marvin, Anne Matthews, Marybeth McCaffrey, Logan McCarty, Michael McDonald, Pat Megley, Ruthie Miller, Elaine Montgomery, Nick Morse, John Nesby, Myer Nore, Janice Obuchowski, David Oorbeck, Gabriel Ostriker, Saee Paliwal, Matthew Peattie, Christian Polman, Cole Pomeroy, Tom Potter, Marian Rambelle, Rachel Ravina, Michele Restino, Sarah Riskind, Anna Roelefs, Mariflor Salas, Dan Schenk, Dana Schlegel, Alan Sevigny, Claire Shepro, Richard Silverman, Joshua Smith, Pedro Soto, Sarah Spinella, Crispin Swank, Mike Terranova, David Traugot, Charles Turner, Joel van Lennep, David van Stone, Neil Vasan, Suki Vogeler, Andrew Waldo, Robert Weisskopf, Debbie Winkler, Elisabeth Winterkorn, Matthew Wright, Laura Yim, Katherine Philp Yost, Katie Yosua, Peitao Zhu
An Informal History of Convivium:
In late 1987, the Longy Choir for Early Music gave its final performance, as the Longy School of Music had decided not to support it any longer. On December 17, 1987, Joel van Lennep sent out a letter to various members and ex-members of that choir, inviting us to continue working together as a group on our own using the momentum we had gathered at Longy. Many of us were eager for a chance to continue our work in early music, and so Capella Sine Nomine was born.
We began to meet weekly wherever we could, mostly in singers’ homes, and eventually we settled into the living room at Phillips Brooks House in Harvard Yard. Often we directed rehearsals ourselves, but we agreed to collect dues from the group to hire conductors on a per-rehearsal basis, in the hope of finding someone to direct us. That first year, we worked with Betsy Burleigh, Frances Fitch, Mark Janello, Jim Marvin, David Ripley, and Peter Urqhardt. None of them was able to take us on long-term, however, and our search for a permanent conductor continued. In late 1988 we hired Mary Greer, changed our name to Ars Canticorum, and began rehearsing at the Friends Meeting House in Cambridge.
Under Mary’s direction we performed our first concerts in February 1989, at the Agassiz Ballroom at Radcliffe, with two other performances at Harvard’s Dudley House and at the Friends Meeting House. We had enough prepared for two programs, entitled “The Golden Age of Spanish Polyphony” and “Masters of the Motet”. These comprised short secular works and sacred motets by Josquin, Victoria, Morales, Guerrero, and others.
After these concerts there followed a period of direction by various members of the group: David Boundy, Roger Frymire, Tomas Guillermo, Carol Marton, and Andrew Waldo. About this time, we began rehearsing in various empty classrooms at MIT. During this period we performed two programs: one in July 1989, “Ave Regina”, motets on the theme of the Virgin Mary, and another in November 1989 of Italian madrigals. We also elected an Executive Committee from among the singers, to plan the group’s future.
We continued to audition conductors all that fall, and we found David Hodgkins in late 1989. Rehearsals moved from MIT to a steady home at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlestown; we changed our name to “Convivium Musicum”, grew a mailing list, and began taking steps to incorporate and assemble a Board of Directors. A crucial achievement was a set of by-laws, which Tomas Guillermo prepared, incorporating input from the entire group.
We completed a dozen programs under David Hodgkins’ direction, performing them locally and as far away as Hamilton, Marblehead and Newburyport. We also were selected to perform at Boston’s First Night celebration in December 1994. In addition, we performed a concert as a Concurrent Event to the Boston Early Music Festival in 1995, something we have continued to do at every BEMF.
The season of 1995-96 was conducted by David Tiedman, and we performed two programs under his direction, Ave Maria, and The Silver Swan. In 1996 we began to work with Scott Metcalfe, and performed over 22 programs with him through May 2007.
In November 1999 we gathered with many Convivium alumni and friends and family to commemorate beloved friend and singer Kathy Benforado, who died on October 14 of that year. With generous donations in her memory from Kathy’s family and friends, we were able to perform a tribute concert with the Boston Shawm and Sackbut Ensemble in June 2002. Kathy brought so much to Convivium, and all of us who knew her miss her still.
In May of 2007 we said farewell to Scott Metcalfe, but our run of extraordinary good fortune in music directors continued when we welcomed Michael Barrett in September 2007.
Convivium Musicum has survived and flourished because of the character, dedication, and talent of its singers and conductors, past and present. All of our programs have made a unique contribution to the local early music scene by presenting less well-known masterpieces seldom heard or recorded. Many of us have worked hard outside of rehearsals and performance to bring the choir to where it is today, from fundraising and long-range planning to handling concert publicity, programs, and recordings, finding rehearsal space, keeping accounts and general planning, to developing and maintaining our web site. We have been united and inspired by our love of singing and of early music, and by our conviction that Convivium provides a special opportunity for our audiences and us to explore new areas of early music, and to learn from each other.
Finally, our founder, Joel Van Lennep, who retired in 2010, deserves a special tribute, and not only for inventing the succulent and devastating “Green Grease” (Grasso Verde) pizza at Bertucci’s. Joel’s enthusiasm, devotion, and diplomacy carried us through our emotional and politically charged early days. It was Joel who first brought us together in 1987 to share our love of Renaissance music with each other and with our audiences. Joel found, edited, and distributed music; prepared and circulated rehearsal schedules; drove the early searches for conductors and new singers; and kept his finger on the erratic pulse of member opinion and morale. He always shared his extensive knowledge of and love for the music with us and with our audiences, in rehearsals and performance, and through his painstakingly prepared editions of the music, and rich, illuminating program notes. He served as our first President when the group incorporated in 1992, and enduringly fostered the democratic spirit that abides in Convivium to this day. Without Joel, there would be no story of Convivium Musicum to tell.