Cantilena logo

Cantilena, a women’s chorus based in Arlington, presented "Fired UP!," a call for equality and activism, at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, 630 Mass. Ave., Arlington, a news release said.

The concert is supported by a Festivals & Projects Program grant of $2,500 from the Mass. Cultural Council, along with a local agency grant from Arlington’s Commission for Arts and Culture.

Cantilena asks that attendees remain masked while in the building.

Two works featured on musical program

"Fired Up!" consists of two works selected by Cantilena Artistic Director Elinor A. Armsby.

The major work is “Lifting as we Climb," written in 2019 by Joan Szymko to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 1920 amendment gave women the right to vote; yet, as the piece highlights, it would be decades more before all women could truly access the ballot box. While celebrating the women's suffrage movement, Szymko amplifies the voices of black women activists in history and calls on everyone to protect the hard-won civil liberties of all against current assaults on human rights, equality, democracy and universal suffrage, the release says.

"Lifting As We Climb" is scored for women's choir, dramatic speakers from the community in the roles of suffragists from Sojourner Truth to Stacey Abrams, piano, alto saxophone and drums. Cantilena members will be joined by women from local organizations that champion diversity, equity and inclusion.

The second work, “Handmade,” by Kelvyn Koning, is a premiere of a piece commissioned by Cantilena to highlight the stories of  homeless LGBTQIA+ youth through their own voices. Through interviews with homeless-shelter staff and individuals who have had no home, Koning writes, this song of care, compassion and healing “aims to remind our community that some of our most vulnerable members are not 'others' but fully realized people with a vast range of stories.”

Grant supports free attendance by less fortunate

Cantilena's award from Mass Cultural Council supports broadened public access to “Fired UP!" The grant recognizes that Cantilena provides significant public value through its socially relevant programming, by promoting access, diversity and awareness of societal and environmental issues through choral music, the release says.

Arlington’s state Sen. Cindy Friedman and Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers wholeheartedly support public funding of the arts and of organizations such as Cantilena, a small Arlington-based non-profit that engages the local community in quality programming to foster greater understanding amongst all residents.

Rogers is quoted as saying, “We are so lucky to have the Cantilena Women's Chorus here in Arlington. By combining arts and activism, their members serve as educators and trailblazers, and I am really pleased to see them awarded this grant from the Mass Cultural Council. I look forward to 'Fired UP!' and everything else they do this year.”

Friedman said, “I am excited that the Cantilena’s Women’s Chorus received grant funding from the Mass Cultural Council to support their wonderful musical performances and the vocal activism work they do in the Arlington community. This will be on full display in the upcoming 'Fired UP!' concert in May, where the group will uplift marginalized voices, demanding equality and the protection of individual rights through choral works.”

This grant enables Cantilena to offer free or discounted admission to members of the community who would otherwise likely be unable to access choral concerts. This is being done through its participation in the Card to Culture Program, offsetting performance expenses beyond the revenue garnered by ticket sales.

To learn more about the group, go to

This news announcement was published Thursday, April 13, 2023, based on information from Cantilena. It was prepared for publication by YourArlington volunteer Kim Haase.