CARMINA (Latin for “poetry” or “songs”) is a chamber choir devoted to exploring the diverse musical styles of the Middles Ages through the Baroque. Since its debut in 1998 the group has performed regularly in the Washington area, making appearances at such venues as the National Gallery of Art, the National Cathedral, the National Presbyterian Church, Anderson House, and the German Embassy. Carmina often presents joint concerts with other local ensembles: partners have included Armonia Nova, the Bach Sinfonia, the Capitol Hill Chorale, the former Washington Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble and Orchestra of the Seventeenth Century, Ensemble Gaudior, the Chesapeake Viol Consort, and the Washington Kantorei as well as sister ensemble Illuminare.
Carmina has been praised by both The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, which noted the group’s “gorgeous tonal balance.” In 2002, Washingtonian magazine included Carmina in its list of “Good arts groups you might not know about.” The same year Carmina won a special grant for new and emerging artistic organizations from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, which helped fund its performances of the medieval miracle play The Son of Getron.
Since its inception in 2004, the Washington Early Music Festival has regularly invited Carmina to participate. Both Carmina and Illuminare were invited to take part in the Washington Arts Group’s 2007 international convocation in a showcase performance, An Evening of Brillance, Past and Present, which also featured several internationally known artists and ensembles. Area choral directors nominated Carmina in 2013 for the Choralis Foundation’s annual Greater Washington Choral Excellence “Ovation” Award for Best Specialty Group, in the category of Early Music.
Carmina’s two CDs, A Carmina Sampler and The Son of Getron, are available at concerts and through this website.
Listen to Carmina and Illuminare
Click here to hear samples of some of Carmina’s and Illuminare’s best performances.
Carmina and Illuminare on CD
Click here for ordering information for A Carmina Sampler and The Son of Getron, as well as Illuminare Sings! and Motets for 4, 5, and 6 Voices by the Palestrina Choir of Washington.
With the Chesapeake Consort of Viols at the Church of the Ascension and St. Agnes, Washington DC: Click here.
Performing the medieval miracle play “The Son of Getron,” St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC: Click here.
Carmina’s singers hail from the greater Washington DC area and have a strong interest and practiced expertise in early music.
“Unison singing is the gold standard of choral art. It may sound easy, but there’s nowhere to hide in a unison melodic line. Every bit of faulty intonation, every wobble and every misplaced consonant hangs out there. But unison singing is what the two chamber choruses Carmina, a mixed chorus, and Illuminare, its smaller,
all-female sister ensemble, do so well, and the program they brought to St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Friday as part of the Washington Early Music Festival played handsomely to their strengths.”
- The Washington Post, June 14, 2010. Click here to read the full review.
“Chamber choirs Carmina and Illuminare brought medieval music and words to life in an uplifting performance…. Illuminare’s 12 sopranos blossomed… the unison melody rose and fell sweetly with each verse and the choir clung to the ends of phrases so that they melted away like sugar…. [Carmina’s male singers] were striking… the baritones sounded an earthy, primeval ringing as the tenors sang tenderly above…. Both groups under director Vera Kochanowsky flowed through the Latin verses with ease and maintained a gentle, precise quality in their voices. They blended so well that only in von Bingen’s ‘O Ecclesia’ did individual timbres emerge in shapely solos.”
- The Washington Post, June 30, 2008. Click here to read the full review.
“Carmina, a 15-voice chamber chorus conducted by Vera Kochanowsky, has come together as an ensemble, has honed its blend, perfected its pianissimo, and found ways to make complicated polyphonic textures sound transparent.”
- The Washington Post
“For dyed-in-the-wool Anglophiles and lovers of sacred choral music, it was a program to die for.... Most admirable about Carmina’s choral approach is the gorgeous tonal balance it achieved.... ...a howling success.... Carmina is led by harpsichordist Vera Kochanowsky who, in addition to knowing what it takes to put Renaissance choral music across, is a sensation at the keyboard.”
- The Baltimore Sun
“The Music of William Byrd” - Carmina sampled the master's last great choral collections, which preserve music written for clandestine worship in the household chapels of persecuted English Catholics. The program featured his intimate Mass for Four Voices as well as selections from his motet cycle Gradualia. (April 16 & 17, 2016)
“Voices of the Spanish Golden Age” - Art, music, and literature came to a great flowering in Spain during the sixteenth century. In this program, Carmina explored the musical glories of this “Golden Age,” with motets, canciones, and villanescas by Guerrero, Morales, Vivanco, Vasquez, and others. (November 14 & 15, 2015)
Buxtehude, Membra Jesu nostri - This unique and moving work lovingly meditates upon the body of Christ on the cross. The seven cantatas reflect in turn on his feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. The period-instrument group Ensemble Gaudior joined Carmina in this work and played chamber music by the composer. (March 7 & 8, 2015)
“From Chapel and Chamber” - Previewed at the 2014 Washington Early Music Festival, this program by Carmina and Illuminare presented sonic gems from Tudor England. Motets and anthems by Taverner, Tallis, Byrd, and Weelkes shared the bill with canzonets and part-songs by Cornysh, Morley, and others, along with music by Morley for virginals. (October 12 & November 9, 2014)
“The Genius of Schütz” - Carmina explored a variety of the master’s works, revealing the eloquence and power with which he transformed German sacred music in light of innovations by Gabrieli and Monteverdi. (October 17 and November 2, 2013)