By Carolyn Shields
Recently, the trio Armonia, who describe themselves as a "classical crossover soprano group," have joined the ranks of rising Catholic artists to watch. Think of a Catholic version of Josh Groban or Andrea Bocceli. We recently interviewed twins Bernadette + Mary Corso and Rachael Demartino to learn about how their faith and art became one.
1) How did the three of you meet?
Rachael: Since Mary and Bernadette are twins, they go way back. The three of us met in college at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmittsburg, MD, in the university choir room of all places! We became fast friends and discovered the joy of singing together.
2) Describe the process of creating Armonia. Where did the idea come from?
Bernadette: Over our years at the Mount, people often commented on how well our voices sounded together. The initial seed that would eventually grow into Armonia was planted was in 2011, when the Mount St. Mary’s Chorale had the opportunity to perform with the Sicilian Tenors, a classical tenor trio, at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, MD (check them out at www.siciliantenors.com!). We loved being on stage with them and kept an eye out for when they came back to town the following year. After the show, we said hello and were surprised that they remembered us from the previous year, and had even seen Mary sing on TV for a mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC! They invited us to sing with them at their next show on the spot! After figuring out some logistics over the next couple years, we debuted as their opener in 2015. Through their encouragement, our group has become what it is today, and we hope to continue to come into our own with more performances and sharing our new CD with others.
3) What does Armonia mean?
Mary: Armonia means “harmony” in Italian. Much of our music is inspired by the Italian greats, and we all have Italian heritage, so we agreed that we wanted to honor that side of us artistically. We love incorporating tight and intricate harmonies into each piece, so the name came pretty easily.
4) How did your Catholic upbringing influence your work as artists?
Bernadette: I think that the three of us can all say that our first encounters with music were all at church. Through this, the way that we relate, interpret, and express music, is always informed by our faith. All three of us see music as not just singing a pretty song, but as reaching towards and touching another soul. Anything beautiful, like music, can ultimately be seen as a reflection of God, and we consider this every time that we go on stage. During each performance, we strive to reflect Christ’s beauty to those who listen, and hopefully we can uplift the listener in the way that he or she might be needing at that time.
5) What was your first show like?
Rachael: Our debut was in May of 2015 at Festa Italiana with the Sicilian Tenors in Frederick, MD. To say we are were nervous is a huge understatement! On that day, we were anxious to finally share a part of us that we had been working on for a long time. In many ways, we believe that music is a way to share your soul with another person, so it can be a very personal experience for a performer. Finally getting up on stage and performing was exhilarating! Afterwards, hearing the response from the audience afterwards, helped us realize that there might really be something to the dream that we had been working toward all of this time.
7) What were unforeseen or unexpected challenges with pursuing this line of work? Do you consider it work?
Bernadette: There’s most definitely a “work” side to the music business! Recording a CD was a big achievement that we are proud to have accomplished...there’s definitely a lot of logistics that we were not aware of before going into this endeavor. There was lots to learn about copyright, finding the right studio, accompanists, and much more! We are so proud of what we were able to create in the end, which made all of the headaches totally worth it. Regarding performance, there’s a ton of prep work that many might not consider even for a simple act: rehearsal, choosing and buying music (the majority of our repertoire is based off the classics). It’s not as easy as just getting up there and singing! That being said, the moment on the stage is one of the most beautiful experiences that we get to share as a group. Having the opportunity to share our hearts and move and uplift the hearts of those who listen to our music is something we are grateful to do each day, and that most certainly doesn’t feel like work!
8) What do you three do outside of Armonia?
Mary: Rachael currently teaches kindergarten, Bernadette works as an administrative assistant for the National Council of Catholic Women in Arlington, VA, and I work as a licensed counselor at the Alpha Omega Clinic in Bethesda, MD. We love getting together and with friends on the weekends, soaking up the young DC Catholic scene, and enjoying time together.
What's next for Armonia? They're about to have their first solo concert in Maryland. To follow what they're up to, check out their facebook page: www.facebook.com/armoniamusicofficial for updates!