Sirens are singers with irresistible voices. In Homer's "The Odyssey," there are two of them who sing from shore to sailors as they travel by.
With eight sirens, the Lorelei Ensemble, a women's vocal group that will sing at First Church in Wenham on Sunday, should prove even harder to resist.
Their name, Lorelei, refers to a German literary version of the siren myth or legend, and all the music in Sunday's concert was chosen because it addresses that legend's theme.
"The idea of sirens is women's voices that are seductive and alluring," said Beth Willer, who founded the group in 2007 and serves as its artistic director.
The ensemble focuses on compositions for women's voices from the Renaissance, medieval and contemporary periods.
Women's voices are not well-represented in the choral repertoire, however, and finding works that suit them is an important part of the group's mission. Among the works that Willer settled on for this performance are several written for the Ladies of Ferrara by Luzzasco Luzzaschi in the 16th century.
"They were a group of women that sang for the courts, some of the most virtuosic musicians of their time," said Willer, who is working toward a doctorate in conducting at Boston University.
"You could refer to them as sirens themselves," she said. "Maybe not in the dark, seductive side of what we know of Lorelei that has been written about in stories, but just the quality of their voices."
The music Luzzaschi wrote for the Ladies "is incredibly challenging and not performed often and can really only be done by professional-level musicians," Willer said.
A work by Monteverdi, a contemporary of Luzzaschi's, will also be performed.
"Both Luzzaschi's and Monteverdi's are texts about love and war, human weakness in love and attraction to another being, and that seems right at the heart, to me, of a siren," Willer said.
The concert is named for a work, "Les Sirenes," that was written by early 20th-century composer Lili Boulanger.
The program will also include works by two contemporary composers that have modern literary sources.
"Eula" by Rudolf Rojahn, who is associated with the Boston Conservatory, is based on an alluring female character from William Faulkner's novel "The Hamlet."
"Into Hell" by Daniel Lewis, which will be receiving its world premiere in Wenham, depicts a character from the novel "Briefings for a Descent Into Hell" by Doris Lessing. The character has had a mental breakdown, and the text is based on a particular scene in the novel.
"A song surfaces during a fantasy. There are women that sing this piece to him; they're actually out at sea while he's trying to find his way," Willer said.
"The music is tonally complex. It has these surges of energy, then releases itself into sections that are more subdued," she said.
Lorelei Ensemble usually performs a cappella, but they will be accompanied for most of the songs in this program by the Boston Percussion Ensemble. "Into Hell" in particular will benefit from instrumental support.
"The percussion layered to it intensifies this dramatic text in a way that a cappella voices could not convey," Willer said.
If you go
What: Lorelei Ensemble, with Boston Percussion Group
When: Sunday, 4 p.m.
Where: First Church in Wenham, Route 1A at Arbor Street
Admission: $20 adults, $15 students
More information: www. loreleiensemble.com/concerts