Illuminare, formed in 2006 as the Carmina Women’s Ensemble, focuses on music of the medieval through Baroque eras composed or arranged for women’s voices. The name symbolizes the ensemble’s efforts to illuminate the glorious music of the past, often overlooked today. Just as beautiful initial letters, or illuminations, add beauty and meaning to medieval manuscripts, the group strives to enhance and enrich the lives of its listeners through its performances.
Illuminare has performed at the National Presbyterian Church, Anderson House, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, the Mansion at Strathmore, and First Night Alexandria. They have sung with Eya, the Countertop Quartet, Slaveya, and the Capitol Hill Chorale, as well as with sibling ensemble Carmina. Illuminare’s performances for the Washington Early Music Festival have been favorably reviewed by The Washington Post.
Their CD Illuminare Sings! can be purchased through this website and at concerts.
Illuminare on Video
Listen to Illuminare and Carmina
Click here to hear samples of some of Illuminare’s and Carmina’s best performances.
Illuminare and Carmina on CD
Click here for ordering information for Illuminare Sings! and Carmina’s recordings A Carmina Sampler and The Son of Getron, as well as Motets for 4, 5, and 6 Voices by the Palestrina Choir of Washington.
Illuminare’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.
“Treasures of the Italian Baroque” - Illuminare and Japanese harpsichordist Atsuko Watanabe presented passionate and energetic music of the early seventeenth century. Featured were works by Milanese nun Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, as well as music by Monteverdi, Grandi, and Giovanni Gabrieli. (May 22, 2016)
“Praises and Plaints” - Illuminare presented a Lenten program featuring two works by Peter Abelard (1079-1142): his lament on the Biblical tragedy of Jephthe’s daughter and his only surviving hymn. The program also included music by Hildegard von Bingen, early Italian devotional songs, and sacred polyphony of the Renaissance. (February 21, 2016)
“A Festival of Carols” - Illuminare joined harpist Beth Mailand to perform Benjamin Britten’s beloved A Ceremony of Carols in its original setting for three treble voices and harp. To complement its Middle English text, Illuminare also sang a medley of exquisite English medieval carols. Ms. Mailand performed Handel’s Harp Concerto in B Flat Major. (December 4, 2015)
Boston Early Music Festival - Illuminare presented highlights from its spring programs at a "Fringe Concert" of the Boston Early Music Festival. (June 13, 2015)
“Rites and Revels of Spring” - Following the success of their 2012 collaboration, Illuminare and the women’s traditional Balkan ensemble Slaveya teamed up to celebrate themes of growth, healing, birth, and the beauties of nature. Folksong arrangements and other selections from eastern Europe complemented medieval and Renaissance music from the West. (May 3, 2015)
“Dancing Through the Labyrinth” - Illuminare traced the shifting and complex dance between poetry and music through the ages. They sang pieces in which music heightens the evocative power of the words, which in turn bring into focus the personal concerns and the fashions of their times. The program included music by Hildegard von Bingen and Francisco Guerrero as well as Italian laude and selections from the 13th-century Carmina Burana manuscript. (March 15, 2015)