Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble was founded by Dr. Tony Thornton in the fall of 2013, with a mission to create a professional-caliber vocal arts ensemble with the heart and dedication of an amateur chorus. In spring of 2022, Dr. Thornton joined the faculty of Oklahoma State University. Now, in our ninth year, we are pleased to be under the interim direction of conductor Dr. Arianne Abela.
A unique chamber chorus, we draw our volunteer singers from throughout Massachusetts and beyond. We have received rave reviews from audiences and newspapers, and have earned the respect of area cultural institutions. We perform choral miniatures and masterworks from all periods and styles, and collaborates with other community/professional organizations.
“Performances at the level of Illuminati's give the listener a clear window into the composer's soul.” - Clifton Noble Jr, The Republican, Oct. 15, 2016
|2022-3 Board of Directors|
|Dr. Arianne Abela,
Interim Artistic Director (ex officio)
|Members at Large|
|Sarah Metcalf||Katrina Turner||Willow Elise Volante (on leave)|
Third Place Winner, 2019-20 American Prize for Choral Excellence
a national juried choral competition
Arianne Abela is Director of Choral Activities at Amherst College and is founder and artistic director of Kaleidoscope Vocal Ensemble, a renowned professional ensemble focused on early and new music with dedication to the intersection of racial, ethnic and gender diversity, and the intersection of arts and social justice. Kaleidoscope has performed as a headliner at ACDA, Podium in Canada, and other renowned festivals and conferences.
Abela has served on conducting faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, and is founder and of the Detroit Women's Chorus and Detroit Justice Choir, ensembles dedicated to social justice and community empowerment. Focusing her efforts on community building through song, Abela founded The House of Clouds and has worked closely with Musicians Take a Stand to organize over a dozen benefit concerts for charities and various causes across the country.
In the realm of opera, Abela has guest conducted opera productions with various Michigan-based opera companies including Detroit's OperaMODO, and serves as music director for Vancouver-based opera company, re:Naissance. Prior to her time in Detroit, Abela lived in Connecticut where she served on faculty at Wesleyan University, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, The Westover School and Notre Dame High School in West Haven.
In 2012, Abela was featured conducting on NBC's Today Show and was a semi-finalist in Season 8 of America's Got Talent director of Connecticut-based 3 Penny Chorus and Orchestra. The ensemble later recorded for the soundtrack of the film Walk of Shame starring Elizabeth Banks.
Abela received her doctorate in conducting from the University of Michigan with Jerry Blackstone and Eugene Rogers, holds a master’s degree in choral conducting from Yale University with Marguerite Brooks, Jeffrey Douma, and Simon Carrington, and a bachelor of arts from Smith College. Abela sings professionally in ensembles across the United States and Canada such as Yale Choral Artists, sounding light, Etherea Vocal Ensemble, Arkora, and Audivi. Originally from the San Francisco bay area, she sang with the San Francisco Girls Chorus for many years.
Sarah Ehle received her Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance from Wheaton College, and her Master’s degree in Collaborative Piano from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her experience includes working with choirs as well as collaborating with musicians of almost every instrument, working as rehearsal pianist for a student opera program, and playing for several student musical theatre revues.
Ms. Ehle is on staff at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she works with the UMass Chamber Choir and several studios. She also accompanies Suzuki group classes at the Northampton Community Music School, and has worked as a staff accompanist at the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut.
Anchored by Howells’ magnificent Requiem, Illuminati’s final concert of the season explores the music of British and American composers who sought a new approach to music through the study of earlier periods and/or folk traditions, as well as two fresh voices who have entered the choral canon from unexpected directions.
Featuring haunting melodies and pure, shimmering tones, this is music best heard in person; the choral sound on which we’ve built our reputation. For this concert we are honored to work with guest conductor Alexandra Ludwig.
October 15, 2022, 7:30 PM
Our Lady of the Valley, 33 Adams St, Easthampton
J.S. Bach, ‘Komm, Jesu, komm,’ BWV 229
J.S. Bach, ‘Jesu, meine Freude,’ BWV 227
Monteverdi, Missa ‘In illo tempore’ (selections)
Victoria, ‘O quam gloriosum’ and Missa ‘O quam gloriosum’
Note: face masks are required in the venue
February 11, 2023, 7:30 PM
Abbey Chapel, Mount Holyoke College
Lang, ‘the little match girl passion’
Schütz, ‘Musikalische Exequien’
world premiere by Brandon Waddles
Note: face masks are required in the venue.
This program is supported in part by a grant from the South Hadley Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.
May 20, 2023, 7:30 PM
Buckley Recital Hall, Amherst College
Tavener, Song for Athene & O do not move
Thompson Odes of Horace
Whitacre 5 Hebrew Love Songs
Gjeilo Ave Generosa • Holst I Love My Love
This program is supported in part by a grant from the Amherst Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.
Entrance into the ensemble is by audition only (see audition process below). Dr. Abela seeks singers with considerable choral experience. While perfect sight reading is not required, all singers must fully prepare repertoire before the first rehearsal. Illuminati makes music from the beginning.
Dr. Abela is building an ensemble with a beautiful, communicative sound: tall, warm, vibrant, and round vowels; a wide dynamic palette; an inner rhythmic drive; and in-tune and balanced resonance. In the soprano section she is looking for lyric, energized purity; in the alto section a rich, full sound; in the tenor section a lyric, high/forward, yet warm sound; and in the bass section a rich baritone sound with forward placement that is not overly dark.
If you are interested, please complete the form here and we will email you an audition confirmation with possible times when auditions reopen.
The audition takes approximately ten minutes. Singers will be asked to prepare a simple one-minute piece of their choosing, and perform scales using a variety of articulations (legato, staccato, and marcato) and dynamics to demonstrate color, range, quality, and flexibility. A segment of the audition will emphasize sight-reading and tonal memory (with accompaniment).
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music is a primal art, central to every human culture, and singing is its most primal form: unmediated by any instrument, rising directly from our lungs, throats and souls.
But from this primal simplicity an extraordinary body of compositions has emerged over the centuries – the choral literature that weaves many voices together into haunting and sonorous tapestries of sound – one of the highest achievements of human civilization.
The singers of Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble have prepared for our community concert programs of some of the most beautiful choral music ever written, because this music is our joy, a profound expression of the human spirit, and a light no darkness can put out.
Our concerts have been densely attended and keenly enjoyed. Clifton Noble wrote in his review of February 2018's Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil, “The breathless silence that blessed the cadence of the final movement before the church erupted in a lengthy standing ovation testified to the profound effect of the music on all those present.”
Though many of us are professional musicians, we are not paid for this work. We do pay our conductor, our accompanist, and other instrumentalists; we also pay for rehearsal and performance space.
The money you help us raise will allow us to continue to explore extraordinary repertoire rigorously and with passion.
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Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble
PO Box 1205
Amherst, MA 01004
Greg Brown & Mary Hubbell
Bruce & Wendy Durfee
Chris Krueger & Jane Bryden
Stephen & Suzanna Adams
Martha & Newton Frohlich
Bruce & Alexandra Lyman
Robert & Silvia Brinkerhoff
Ronna & Neal Erickson
Manuel & Susan Andrade
Rachel Peterson & Roger Bird
Music has the power to move and inspire, to tell important stories, and to bring communities together. The Illuminati Vocal Arts Ensemble performs choral pieces and masterworks from all periods and styles, often in collaboration with other musical organizations throughout the Pioneer Valley. Our sold-out concerts attract a discerning audience that shares a passion for performance at the highest level. Noted pianist, composer and music reviewer Clifton Noble, Jr., recently complimented us as "the Valley's finest chorus."
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