The Brasiles Ensemble is an elite group of vocalists offering unique performances. Here is a snapshot of our success since our inception in late 2016. We strive to be a very versatile group, now singing in eleven languages with an ever-growing repertoire ranging from Early music to opera to folk to pop. We are mainly an a cappella group with a central focus on Early music, though we have also had multiple instrumentalists accompany us over the years for various repertoires. Among our accomplishments, we have a recorded a CD with Yo-Yo Ma’s sound engineer, Jody Elff, performed with Tommy Tune, and were the first musical program at Magazzino Italian Art. We have held concerts at multiple venues around the Hudson Valley ever since. Currently, we are growing to offer new repertoire as an octet as well as expanding our radius of venues in which to perform in the future.
Our CD sold on Amazon includes 16 holiday tracks. We are also streamed on Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music and Deezer

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The first question people often ask us is about where the name of the group originated, so here is a bit of background…

It was on July 4th in 1921, that Salvatore and Madeleine DeNitto arrived in the harbor of New York City with the Statue of Liberty being the very first thing that Madeleine saw from the bow of her ship from Algeria. With her, Madeleine brought a very ill baby and a wealth of education and appreciation for the fine arts. She left Old Algiers and parents she would never see again in hopes of great opportunities in a new world. She later bore three more children who all recall her singing opera in her kitchen while baking her famous French loaves. Madeleine had left behind her native country, her beloved family and her Italian maiden name; Brasiles. It is in her honor that I lend my grandmother’s given name to a group of fine musicians for whom she would certainly have adored.

With the “Nocturnal” concert receiving such wonderful acclaim in November of 2013 at St. Philip’s Church in the Highlands, I am very happy to invite everyone to future performances from The Brasiles Ensemble. As the mission of this group is to provide audiences with unique concerts, we are thrilled to have had great success in our first year with many more opportunities underway for the future.

Pronunciation guide for Brasiles = “BRAH-zee-lez”

~Madeleine DeNitto, Founder

Meet the Performers

s0040396   Madeleine DeNitto ~ founder / soprano
During her decade of performance with Capitol City Opera Company, Madeleine was on stages regularly in major productions, including such great operas as Suor Angelica, Don Pasquale and The Merry Wives of Windsor. In addition, she was chosen to perform in two special school touring shows. She was also very honored to have been chosen to perform in rare works, including Riders to the Sea, as well as special opportunities to perform in honor of Queen Anne and Princess Sophie of Romania. Proficient in sacred and early music, Madeleine was also one of eight members of an elite madrigal group for several years. In late 2012, Madeleine had a role in The Beggar’s Opera with fellow singer, Laura, in which they performed the “infamous cat fight” at The Philipstown Depot Theatre. Madeleine soon met Ed, Paul and Kim when they were all members of the former choir at St. Philip’s in the Highlands Episcopal Church, which is how the concept of founding The Brasiles Ensemble became a reality. Since late 2021, Madeliene joined the Christ Episcopla Church in Poughkeepsie where she continues to meet and work with new musicians.  For nearly 23 years, Madeleine has been a professional organizer and is proud owner of Garrison Concierge. Most recently, she has also made he decision to return to her work the visual arts as a multimedia artist. Her work can be found on DeNIttoArt. In late 2022, she also took a position at Magazzino Italian Art. She and her husband, Clayton, relocated to the Hudson Valley permanently in 2010 and have two adult children; one daughter, a wife and mother for two, living in Raleigh, NC working in HR recruitment, and a son, recently married and working in DC as a U.S. trial attorney for the Dept. of Justice. As one of the founding members, her son, Speare performs with The Brasiles Ensemble whenever he can spare the time. For his bio, see Speare Hodges below.
dscf0441   Laura Danilov ~ alto
Laura Danilov has been singing since she was a little girl. She enjoys singing all sorts of styles including musical theatre (see acting roles) and rock (Formerly with the Roy Orbison band, The Lonely.) Acting roles include: Sister Mary Hubert in Nunsense (Depot Theatre), Annas in Jesus Christ Super Star (Depot Theatre), Linda in No Privacy (Aery 20/20 Festival), Charles Thomson in 1776 (Depot Theatre), Beggars Opera (Philipstown Depot Theatre), Much Ado About Nothing (Princeton Rep Shakespeare Festival), Violet (Putnam County Theatre), Godspell (Oasis Theatre Co.) Most rencently, Laura has composed two original pieces for The Brasiles Ensemble and plans to write more in the future. Her play, “Ouija” was a finalist in the 2020 ScreenCast Stage Play competition. In addition to performing, Laura is a body based Life Coach working with people who want to eperience more joy and confidence in life including private singing lessons and movement & sound workshops based in the Williamson Movement Technique which she used to teach at the Actors Movement Studio in NYC. She lives in Cold Spring with her husband and her famous son, Alex.
dscf0435   Kimberly Hiss ~ soprano
Kimberly Hiss, soprano, studied English and Vocal Performance at Penn State University then moved to Manhattan, where she enjoyed singing with groups including the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, which toured Eastern Europe, and the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York, which prided itself on a repertoire of ancient liturgical chants and new works from contemporary composers. As a soloist she has recorded television commercials and performed on acoustic guitar both while living in Prague in the Czech Republic, and more recently throughout New York’s Hudson River Valley. Currently, she is pleased to sing with The Brasiles Ensemble and Highlands Choral Society. As a side project, she and Madeleine have created a new vocal duo called The Mary Powell. Beyond music, Kimberly is a writer and editor who has contributed pieces to a range of titles to O the Oprah Magazine, HuffPost, Health, Woman’s Health, Readers’s Digest, Wired, The Prague Post, Dubin’s Sunday Business Post, and more. She lives in Peekskill, NY, with her husband and two sons.
SPEARE HEADSHOT #3  Speare Hodges ~ baritone / piano
As a founding member of The Brasiles Ensemble, Speare Hodges is an experienced pianist and vocalist. Classically trained at a young age, he gave numerous piano recitals and later studied under Michael Cannon. He also toured internationally with the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde and played the lead role in Hair at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts (the “Fame School”). More recently, he continues to work as a piano accompanist and sings with The Thomas Circle Singers in Washington, DC. Outside of his love for music, Speare is dedicated to a public service career. After graduating from Emory University, he went on to work serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, preventing foreclosures with New York Legal Services, and helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. He received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Cum Laude. He now works as a Trial Attorney for the Department of Justice in Washington, DC and recently got married. He is Madeleine DeNitto’s son.
dscf0444  Paul Phillips ~ tenor / guitar
Paul grew up singing with family and friends. After some initial music training in the Atlanta Boy Choir, he sang in various choirs and groups throughout a somewhat nomadic childhood. In college, he was an original member of the Oberlin Obertones, who continue a cappella men’s singing at Oberlin College and Conservatory to this day. He performed many major and new chorale works over the years with The New York Chamber Symphony Chorus, The Judith Clurman Chorale, The Juilliard Choral Union, and the Oxford University Press Choir. Paul performed many major and new chorale works oer the years with the New York Chamber Symphany Chorus, the Judith Clurman Chorale, the Juilliard Choral Union, and the Oxford University Press Choir. He has sung with ensembles ranging from The American Composers Orchestra and The Juilliard Orchestra to The New York Pops, They Might Be Giants, and The Chieftains. With the Juilliard Opera, he performed in choruses for Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Francis Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites. He has sung on stage with the New York City Ballet’s Chichester Psalms as well as in the orchestra pit for Mark Morris Dance Group’s Gloria. In his “other” career, Paul works in the world of educational publishing, helping produce English language teaching materials. He collaborates with producers, composers, and arrangers to develop video and audio programs for teaching English. In addition to The Brasiles Ensemble, Paul currently sings with the Highlands Choral Society. 
dscf0445   Ed Robinson ~ bass
Born in post-WWII Germany to a military family, Ed’s childhood was split between Germany and New York City. Choral singing was an important part of his early life during which he sang with the Manhattan Borough-Wide Chorus, the All-City High School Chorus, performing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. A life-long church choir member, Ed has sung with the Saint Augustine Chapel Choir with Trinity Parish and, from 1980 to 2021, the Saint Philip’s Church Choir in Garrison. Ed is currently a member of the Highlands Choral Society. Ed earned a degree in mechanical engineering from The City College of New York and recently retired after a 42-year engineering career. His specialty ws centered on control and automation system design and construction management for domestic and interantional electircal power facilities, water treatment, and wastewater treatment plants. Ed is als a Vietnam Veteran and retired millitary NCO: a Master Sergeant with the USAF and NYANG for 22 years. He is also an active member of the New York Paleontological Society. Ed has been married to Louise Squitieri since 2004 and, together, they have five children and nine grandchildren.

We applaud our instrumentalists!

E843DA45-EC9C-4D44-AADC-0EAD930E934E_1_201_a  Alexandra Beliakovich ~ piano

Alexandra is a versatile Belarusian-American pianist and educator. As a performer, she appeared with the Belarusian Symphony, Belarusian Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati and Manhattan School of Music Philharmonic Orchestras, Havana Symphony Orchestra and as recitalist in Belarus, China, Cuba, Japan, Poland, Spain and the USA. Alexandra was a prize winter in several piano competitions; she won First Prize at the Klaviermusik International Competition in Vilnius, Lithuania, Second Prize at the Fourth International Piano Competition in Panama and Second Prize at the World Piano Competition 2011. Alexandra’s recent engagements include concerto performances withthe Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra and the Havana Symphony Orchestra in Cuba, where her performances of Gershwin’s Concerto in F and Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5 won critical acclaim. As a soloist, she has also been featured on a WQXR radio broadcast and was a featured pianist at the 2018 Bar Habor Music Festival. Alexandra is a recipient of he scholarship from the Belarusian President’s Special Fund for Talented Youth (2004 and 2005), Roy M. Rubinstein Piano Performance Award (2010), and Helen Cohn Award (2016). In 2015, Alexandra was named an Oustanding Citizen of the City of New York by the City Council. From 2004 to 2006, Alexandra was an Advanced Student of piano and organ under Jury Gildiuk at the Belarusian State Academy of Music. She has since earned her Master’s and Doctoral Degrees from the Manhattan School of Music where she studied with Solomon Mikowsky.

For her full bio, please visit her website.

IMG_2038  Rachel Evans ~ violin / viola

Rachel Evans has been a member of the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra, the contemporary music ensemble Continuum, and the Meridian Quartet. She has performed across the globe with ensembles whose repertoire spans medieval to contemporary. Recently taking part in Ars Antiqua’s acclaimed recording Francois Philodor’s “L’art de la Modulation” with Elizabeth Wallfisch, she was a principal player and recitalist at the Carmel Bach Festivalfor many years and appeared in various ensembles at the Boston, Berkeley, and Utrecht Early Music Festivals, Charles Ives Festival in Germany and the Victoria Festival in Australia with ensembles such as, the medieval ensemble Sequentia, the baroque ensembles Rebel and Pegasus, Continuum, and others. She has appeared in the ongoing NYC Cable series “The Facts”, (also online at 1687inc). As a sound and movement artist, Rachel collaborated with Elaine Colandrea in “Venus” (2009) and “On the Nature of the Body” (2012), in Rhinebeck, NY and is a member of Watermark Arts. A recipient of the Coleman Chamber Music Award, she earned B.Mus. and M.Mus. degrees at The Juilliard School of Music. She teaches locally violin, viola giving private lessons in Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester,  Orange and Ulster counties.

[JMF Head Shot]  James Fitzwilliam ~ organ / harpsichord / piano

James M. Fitzwilliam holds the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music (BM ’85, MM ’88) degrees from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studied piano with Rebecca Penneys. He is frequently seen throughout the Hudson Valley area as a pianist, organist and composer. As a pianist, he regularly appears with the Gilbert and Sullivan Musical Theater Company, Cappella Festiva, and the Bard College Community Chorus. As an organist, he has served at several area churches including Trinity Lutheran in Brewster, NY and First Presbyterian in Poughkeepsie, and has made a number of performance appearances including the Old Dutch Church Organ Series in Kingston and the Hudson Valley Bach Festival. He is currently Organist and Cantor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kingston, NY, a position he has held since 2003. As a composer, he has had works commissioned and/or performed by members of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the SUNY New Paltz College Chorale, and the Chancel Choir of First Presbyterian Church, Poughkeepsie. In the fall of 2000, his song cycle Eternity on texts of Emily Dickinson was featured on a concert of Hudson Valley composers including the late Robert Starer and Peter Schickele, and this same work will appear on a forthcoming recording on the Parnassus label. He is a dedicated year-round barefooter, which provides during performances the benefit of increased sensitivity to the instrument and better pedal control at both the organ and the piano. A native of Plattsburgh, NY, he now resides in Poughkeepsie with his wife Julie, son Benjamin and daughter Diana.

For more information, please visit his website.

BRASILES ENSEMBLE - KOLB PHOTO #1   Richard Kolb ~ lute / theorbo

Lutenist Richard Kolb has performed throughout North America and Europe as a soloist and with a wide range of Baroque ensembles, including Opera Atelier, New York City Opera, Les Musiciens du Louvre, Chicago Opera Theater, Waverly Consort, Handel & Haydn Society, Pegasus, and Concert Royal. Since completing a Ph.D. in musicology at Case-Western Reserve University in 2010, Kolb has combined his career as a performer with scholarly research and publishing in the field of 17th-century music. He is nearing completion of the first modern edition of the complete works of the 17th-century Italian composer Barbara Strozzi, the fifth volume of which has recently been published by Cor Donato Editions. This past summer he recorded a solo CD of the music of Robert Ballard, which is scheduled to be released in early 2018. Kolb is Scholar in Residence for the NY Continuo Collective, and has held teaching positions at the University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto), and Case-Western Reserve University.

C60FBC17-F2BC-44A4-AB61-2A9B0D42FE33_1_201_a   Holly Mentzer ~ Medieval harp / viola da gamba / recorder / alto

Holly first fell in love with early music while in high school when she became obsessed with a Nonesuch LP of Elizabethan and Jacobean madrigals by The Scholars entitled “The Silver Swan,” followed by nearly wearing out a cassette of Renaissance dances by Calliope. The love affair intensified during her first music history class at The Juilliard School, where she was a flute student of Paula Robison, worked in the orchestra library, and secretly longed to play the crumhorn. After receiving her master’s degree in flute, she began a twenty-year career working in the music printing and publishing industry. She joined the New York office of the esteemed British music publishing company, Boosey & Hawkes, where she worked in music production and later became the Editor of Serious Music. As an escape from the stress of composers missing deadlines and constantly revising their scores, she joined Choraulos, an early music trio that performed in churches and medieval festivals in the New York area, and learned how to play recorder, rebec, and medieval harp. She was drawn to the soulful sound of the viola da gamba after seeing the film “Tous les matins du monde” and began studying viol with Martha McGaughey. Later she studied early flutes with Stephen Preston and Nancy Hadden in master classes, as well as historical harp and with Maxine Eilander. Holly was a member of New York Continuo Collective and has appeared with Early Music New York, Infiorare, Long Island Baroque, Polyhymnia, and ARTEK. She has performed in New York and Boston-based series including Boston Early Music Festival fringe concerts, SOHIP, New York Early Music Series, Music for the Spirit, and Music Before 1800. Holly is currently the alto section leader at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Larchmont, NY, and is a member of the Highlands Choral Society. Ms. Mentzer holds an MA in music therapy from New York University, where she is currently a PhD candidate, and works as a music therapist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

 BRASILES ENSEMBLE - MICHAEL S. WITTENBURG   Michael Shane Wittenburg ~ piano / organ / violin

Hailed as a “real virtuoso” by the late Ruth Laredo, pianist and conductor Michael Shane Wittenburg made his professional opera conducting debut with Amore Opera’s recent production of Faust and has served with multiple opera companies including in Nashville, Orlando and Sarasota. As an Assistant Professor of music at Lee University, he was Music Director of both the Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theatre. He has made solo appearances as pianist with the LouisianaPhilharmonic Orchestra, The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Eastman Wind Ensemble and the Ocala Symphony as both pianist and conductor. He has also appeared in collaborative recital with such artists as Metropolitan Opera soprano Stell Zambalist and concert violinist Livia Sohn.

For more about Michael, please visit his website.