Corvid Ensemble: Like the crows of Seattle, we’re smart, we do what we want, and we like shiny things.

About the Corvid Ensemble

What/who is the Corvid Ensemble?

The Corvid Ensemble of Seattle, Washington, USA was founded in 2019 by vocalist Marjorie Bunday with the intent of providing professional performance opportunities for Seattle musicians (and other artists) to present their shiny things. We’ve all worked so hard for other people and their visions, while keeping our dream pieces of music close to our hearts. Things we’ve always wanted to perform but never got asked to, or performed once and yearn to get closer, or couldn’t afford to put the band together, or just couldn’t find the time in our busy musical lives. Marjorie loves to see the spark when someone is performing something they truly love and connect with and wants to help to facilitate that.

Marjorie, who serves as both producer and performer, likes to build concert programs around themes, but she doesn’t like boxes. A professional classical singer for 30 years, her lifetime musical creative endeavors have also included folk and rock music. The traditional structure of a classical music concert can sometimes feel very esoteric and exclusionary to an audience member who might be new to “classical” music, and 90 minutes of the same genre, historical era, composer, etc., can get boring and start to sound like a wash even for the most dedicated concert-goer. The Corvid Ensemble strives to present concerts that have a thematic thread but straddle musical genres and historical eras, in a cohesive manner that always keeps the story line going. A concert might have a mix of medieval, Broadway, and J. S. Bach, for example, as long as the story is unbroken.

We are a partner with the University Heights Center in Seattle and look forward to collaborating with them on multimedia shows, including visual art paired with the concert themes, when we are able to have live events again.

I’m a performer – how can I get involved?

There are a few ways that a concert might be planned.

1. Marjorie comes up with a theme and invites performers to collaborate on that theme. Our inaugural concert, “Quoth the Raven” was built around three subthemes: texts of Edgar Allen Poe, the theme of death, and the medieval chant “Dies Irae.” Our current video project is “Say It Loud! Songs of Protest and Uprising.”

2. A performer contacts Marjorie with a theme idea and we collaborate to produce a concert on that theme. Our second concert, which was scheduled for May 12, 2020 and postponed due to the pandemic, was to be “Medieval Portraits,” based on ideas from soprano Erika Chang on medieval music that commemorated named people.

3. You submit your shiny things (“I’ve always wanted to perform the xxx piece by xxx”), Marjorie will collect and cache them (like a crow does with peanuts), and look for patterns that could form a cohesive concert with a story line. If/when your pieces are a fit for a concert theme, you will be invited for an audition, which may include ensemble singing or playing on a piece that is someone else’s shiny thing.

The pandemic has changed everything, so a lot of this has been put on hold. Once the current video project is complete, we will start thinking about what to do next. This video project is mostly solo performers, some with karaoke backups, and not so much a virtual choir sort of thing. We have been resistant to virtual choir “performances” as an art form, but it looks like we won’t be performing together live anytime soon, so we may be rethinking that.

A positive result of presenting video performances is that we are able to reach out to performers outside of Seattle. We’re happy to have current participants from Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC.

If you are interested in performing with us virtually now or live in the future, please send an email to Marjorie by clicking on the “Contact” link in the menu. Let her know your voice type/instrument/art form and your ideas and shiny things.

Are the performers paid?

Yes. The Corvid Ensemble is currently self-funded by Marjorie and her day job, and is not yet a non-profit organization. For live concerts, she currently pays an honorarium of $100/concert plus a split of the door weighted to participation (striving for equal participation across the board). Rehearsals are carefully planned to not waste anyone’s time, and not be excessive — self-preparation is valued highly. One full share of the door goes to offset expenses (most certainly not covering the entirety). The plan is to become non-profit and apply for grants so that performers can be paid what they are worth.

For video projects, the current honorarium is $50/video and an even split of donations.

What is the Corvid Ensemble doing to help create a more equal playing field for all?

The Corvid Ensemble as an organization stands with those who are protesting against racial injustice and police brutality, and we unequivocally believe that Black Lives Matter. We have made it a priority to invite BIPOC musicians to collaborate on projects. We fully support equal rights for all LBGTQ people.  We will listen and be a sounding board for those who have been marginalized and discriminated against. We pledge to maintain a safe space where hate speech and bigotry in any form will not be tolerated. 

We acknowledge that our ancestors have enslaved, murdered, raped, and pillaged Black and Indigenous people and their communities, and we fully support monetary and emotional reparations.

Indigenous Land Acknowledgement Statement

The Corvid Ensemble, based in Seattle, Washington,  acknowledges that we are on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People, who still live here today. We are grateful for the shared resources of the Duwamish Tribe and will honor and conserve them.  Our ancestors have stolen their land and attempted genocide, and we are deeply ashamed. We are committed to creating a better world that honors the Duwamish People and repairing the harm that we have done.

What is a Corvid? Why corvids?

A corvid is a bird of the family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens, jays, and magpies. They are insanely smart birds (gives new meaning to the term “bird-brain”) with intelligence on the level of a primate. Since moving to Seattle in 2015, I’ve gained this beautiful connection with the crows (I feed them and have specific families that visit me), and I want this venture to soar and play and caw and be loud and pushy like they do. They are so inspiring to me every single day, and I want to follow their example of just flying in and loudly doing what needs to be done (in an artistic sense).

A secondary mission of the Corvid Ensemble is to educate the public about the often maligned crow. We hope to include educational spots from crow researchers in future projects.