Announcing Our New Artistic Director, Richard Robbins

Carmina and Illuminare, sibling chamber choirs dedicated to exploring the musical styles from the Middle Ages through the Baroque era, are thrilled to announce their 2024-25 season under the leadership of their new musical director, Dr. Richard W. Robbins.

Since the establishment of Carmina by Dr. Vera Kochanowsky in 1997, followed by Illuminare in 2006, both choirs have enriched Washington’s early music scene. The choirs’ commitment to musical excellence has earned praise from esteemed publications including The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, where they have been lauded for their “gorgeous tonal balance” and innovative programming. Noteworthy accolades include a special grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts in 2002, supporting performances of the medieval miracle play The Son of Getron. Both ensembles were honored with the Choralis Foundation’s Greater Washington Choral Excellence “Ovation” Award for Best Chamber Choir in 2016, and for Best Programming in 2017.

Following the retirement of Dr. Kochanowsky and under the leadership of incoming conductor Dr. Robbins, Carmina and Illuminare will embark on a journey into “New Worlds,” offering audiences a season filled with interpretations of early vocal music from lesser-known composers and regions. Highlights include rarely performed pieces from the Polish Baroque tradition, as well as repertoire by Maddalena Casulana, an Italian composer renowned as the first woman in the history of Western music to have an entire book of her original compositions printed and published.

Dr. Robbins joins Carmina and Illuminare with extensive musical experience. A longtime teacher and professor of choral music, he is currently director of choral activities and artist-in-residence at Shenandoah University. His work with symphonic organizations includes principal choral preparation for the Houston Symphony, Houston Ballet, and the Duluth Superior Symphony, and he has most recently been named the director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus. As an advocate for early music, his doctoral research centered on the liturgy and music of the Italian Counter-Reformation. He has led early music and chamber ensembles in the first modern performances of multiple lost works and has published on the music of the Italian Baroque.

Reflecting on his appointment, Dr. Robbins stated, “I am deeply honored to be named musical director of Carmina and Illuminare. I am inspired by the legacy of Dr. Kochanowsky, and I hope to continue this group’s tradition of excellence and innovation. I look forward to an exciting first season and to saying hello to our audience members.”