The Vocal Art Ensemble (VAE) is an a cappella choir founded in February 2008. Directed by Tracia Barbieri, the group ranges from 18-24 auditioned singers and performs in Davis, Sacramento, Dixon, Woodland, and the surrounding area.

The singing group presents themed concerts each spring and winter, aiming to "[share] exquisite music through artful musicianship." Targeting both the discerning musician and the casual music lover, performances feature a cappella choral pieces and intimate instrumentals by accomplished local performers.

VAE's repertoire frequently falls into one of three categories: choral motets and madrigals from the Renaissance (Tallis, Byrd, Sheppard, etc.), contemporary choral works (Whitacre, Lauridsen, Forrest, etc.), and folk music from other cultures (African, Swedish, Russian, etc.). However, the chorus has also been known to present pieces from the classical performance repertoire.

The ensemble rehearses in the home of the director, with the goal of "[bringing] together experienced musicians pursuing artistic expression through finesse of the human voice." New members must be strong musicians, as the focus of this ensemble is blend, balance, and musicianship.

VAE sings at special events such as church services, weddings, art gallery receptions, holiday parties and retirement homes.  In September 2010 the group expanded its performance area to include a self-funded tour of Ireland, and a second tour was held in May 2014 to England and Scotland.  VAE also did a local tour of Napa in May 2015.

Rather than sell tickets, VAE relies exclusively on audience donations at concerts or payment at gigs to fund its programs, and does not charge singer dues or require fund-raising efforts or sponsorship from corporations or local service groups.

Upcoming Performances


Comfort FoodChoral Music to Feed the Soul

This fall, The Vocal Art Ensemble caters to your imagination with an appetizing menu of choral delicacies.

Featuring a smorgasbord of home-cooked ensembles, this hearty spread serves up ancient choral recipes, spicy ethnic flavors, and tantalizing treats from modern composers... to satisfy the most discerning palate.

Nourish your soul and satiate your craving for gourmet music -- calorie free!

To honor the spirit of helping to feed the soul,  non-perishable food items will be gratefully accepted at concerts, as part of STEAC’s holiday food basket program.

Suggested donation: $10-25

For more information visit: or call (530) 757-2396.


  • FRIDAY DECEMBER 11, 2015, 7:30 pm, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (2620 Capitol Ave, Sacramento)
  • SATURDAY DECEMBER 12, 2015, 7:30pm, Unitarian Universalist Church (27078 Patwin Rd, Davis)
  • SUNDAY DECEMBER 13, 2015, 4:00pm, United Methodist Church (1620 Anderson Road, Davis)


How Culture Shapes the Choral Art

The Vocal Art Ensemble presents choral gems from around the globe to contemplate the cultural influences that inspired and shaped their inception.

VAE will be joined by Rene Jenkins, who pairs old and new world instruments to conjure timeless soundscapes of earthly dimensions.

Suggested Donation: $10-25


  • FRIDAY JUNE 3, 2016, 7:30 pm, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (2620 Capitol Ave, Sacramento)
  • SATURDAY JUNE 4, 2016, 7:30pm, Unitarian Universalist Church (27078 Patwin Rd, Davis)
  • SUNDAY JUNE 5, 2016, 4:00pm, United Methodist Church (1620 Anderson Road, Davis)


The Vocal Art Ensemble currently has numerous CD and DVD recordings available for sale at  Proceeds help fund the group's performance-related expenses.

The Ensemble

Learn more about the performers at


VAE performing in St. Canice Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland VAE’s first international tour was of Ireland and took place from September 2 - 11, 2010. It included performances at Kylemore Abbey in Kylemore, St. Mary’s Church in Killarney, St. Canice Cathedral in Kilkenny, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. VAE also participated in a Catholic mass in Charleville, and a joint performance with two Irish choirs at St. Peter’s church in Bandon.

The second international tour took place May 5 - 14, 2014 and took them up the Eastern Coast of England and into Scotland. VAE was honored to perform at many prestigious churches throughout the U.K., such as the birthplaces of English Renaissance composers Thomas Morley (Norwich Cathedral) and William Byrd (Lincoln Cathedral), historic buildings such as All Saints Hough-on-the-Hill (over 1000 years old) and St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh (seat of power in Scotland), and icons such as the Parish Church at Sandringham Estate (where HM the Queen worships at Christmastime) or the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling (where Mary Queen of Scots’ son was crowned King).

Read more about these tours at

Performance History

VAE concert programs frequently connect with other artistic enterprises, and celebrate the elegant beauty of Renaissance motets, tonal color of modern works, and exotic flavor of music from other cultures. Concerts sometimes premiere pieces composed by choir members. Concerts typically take place in December and May throughout Yolo County, California and have included performances in Davis, Woodland, Sacramento, Dixon, and Vacaville. The ensemble toured Ireland in 2010, and England and Scotland in May 2014. They also performed in half of the concerts at the inaugural 2014 SacSings! choral festival in Sacramento, and are currently planning a tour of Pennsylvania and Toronto, Canada for June 2016.

VAE's debut concert, May 2008, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis (photo: BillKendrick)

2008: The choral ensemble's debut concert set, entitled New Renaissance, was held in May 2008 in Davis and Woodland with 15 singers. It included works for guitar quartet led by classical guitarist Matthew Grasso, and featured madrigal selections accompanied by the guitar ensemble. Their first year together concluded with a December concert series entitled O Nata Lux, which included Christmas pieces centering around the coming of light into darkness, partnering with the Dolanc String Quartet.

VAE often celebrates the music of other cultures, as in their 2009 concert series Voyages Musicaux

2009: The group's second year included two multi-cultural concert sets. In May 2009 was Tally Ho, which "toured the United Kingdom and tasted of its rich musical flavours," the performances featured celtic instrumentals by fiddler/octave mandolinist Bob Wren and guitarist Ray Frank. The December 2009 concert set, entitled Voyages Musicaux, welcomed the instrumental duo back for a more global exploration, and "[explored] the human experience of faith, anticipation, and the celebration of new life through the music of more than twenty nations". The final performance at the U.U. Church of Davis was enthusiastically received by a standing-room only crowd.

VAE's performance in May 2010 delved into the emotionally charged subject of grief through beautiful and comforting music

2010: VAE continued to present some novel and unique approaches to choral performance programming. In May 2010 they presented Great Beyond, which interpreted Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief through music, honoring "both the struggle of letting go and the beautiful possibilities awaiting us on the other side of acceptance." This concert set also raised awareness for Yolo Hospice, which has offered the community comfort, support, and grief guidance for 30 years. Then in anticipation of the group's performance tour of Ireland that September, VAE was the featured performer at the Village Homes Performer's Circle in July, and in August presented a one-night concert entitled VAE Visits Ireland, which previewed their tour repertoire in Davis before embarking on their tour less than two weeks later. Then in December the group presented Christmas Origins, which "[traced] medieval Christmas texts to their roots, presenting a path of musical stepping stones through the ages, honoring a cherished history of holiday song." The choir performed three concerts (one to a standing-room-only crowd) earning them praise for their "level of artistry and [the]complexity in the harmonies" as well as their ability to perform the entire concert from memory.

Concert poster for Solstice, December 2011

2011: The group's fourth year began with Cloudburst in May 2011 which "painted a picture of the natural world with playful madrigals, stunning modern works, and evocative pieces that span the world’s cultures.” The grand finale, Eric Whitacre's 'Cloudburst,' featured the Juuliebells handbell choir of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, who joined the singers in recreating the sounds of a thunderstorm. That December, the Vocal Art Ensemble presented Solstice as a vocal and dance representation of the Solstice as winter’s turning point — a time to embrace both dark and light through song and timeless ritual. Audience members were encouraged to soak in the changing light with a pirouette of exquisitely intertwined voice and movement, with dances choreographed and performed specifically for this concert set by Ecokinesis Dance Company.

Inkspell acting, May 2012

Frankincense & Myrrh dancers from Fiesta Dance 'N Fitness, December 2012

2012: The next year began with Inkspell in May 2012, and included poetry enactments directed by Russell St. Clair of the Winters Shakespeare Summer Program. The program covered texts set to music from the romantics, the mystics, foreign poetry, modern poetry, and Shakespeare, inviting audiences to “encounter choral wizards Debussy, Whitacre, and Vaughn Williams as they transform poetic incantation into sparks of musical imagination, crafting choral masterpieces bubbling with beauty and humor.”  Review For its winter 2012 season, VAE performed Frankincense & Myrrh, featuring dance by local studio Fiesta Dance and Fitness. This varied concert experience weaved together pieces that evoked spices, precious goods, treasures, and exotic lands.  Review

Collage of Godai photos, May 2013

Concert poster for Voices of Innocence, November 20132013: In celebrating its fifth anniversary, VAE performed Godai in May 2013, “a musical invocation of the Japanese Godai – the 'Five Great' elements that create our world” – earth, air, fire, water, and void. Welcoming back a rich roster of its past guest artists, VAE forged powerhouse favorites with enticing new discoveries in a program shaped by their characteristic depth of emotion and attention to detail.  Review Then in November, VAE presented Voices of Innocence, with a program divided into segments entitled: Wonder, Play, Innocence, Fun, Warmth, Hope, and Joy. Each segment was introduced by children of VAE choir singers, who also participated in the program by singing or playing an instrument.”  Review 

2014: VAE was to embark on its second European performance tour, “shipping its songs across the pond to historic England and Scotland.” Before VAE set sail, they held an exclusive preview of their tour program, Compass, which explored music from each of the four cardinal directions. Review For the 2014 holiday season, VAE presented Nativus - a choral re-imagining of the Nativity that musically enacted “Mary and Joseph’s legendary story of emotional turmoil, sinister forces, and miraculous wonder.”  VAE set the stage for an imaginative journey in which narration by Adam Sartain of the Davis Musical Theater Company, choral music, and haunting tableaux depicted a blessed event that traveled through tragedy and triumph. Review

VAE in Lincoln Cathedral, on tour in England, May 2014

Nativity scene in Nativus, December 2014

VAE during local tour of Napa Valley, May 2015

2015: VAE’s most recent performance set included Mostly Madrigals in May 2015. The Vocal Art Ensemble traced the heritage of this faire art form, toasting the charm that made it beloved among monarchs and peasants alike. This program was narrated by Laura Sandage and Doug Barbieri, who enacted the educational program to a jovial script written by Sandage. VAE also joined forces with the Baroque & Beyond recorder ensemble, whose authentic ancient tones transported listeners to the heart of the Renaissance.  The group completed the season with a local tour of the Napa Valley. Review  In December it will present a program entitled Comfort Food, which will “feature a smorgasbord of home-cooked ensembles, and serve up ancient choral recipes, spicy ethnic flavors, and tantalizing treats from modern composers…to satisfy the most discerning palate.” Food donations will also be gratefully accepted at concerts as a contribution to STEAC's food closet program.

To listen to music from these concerts, visit