communities in harmony

OperaDelaware and Wilmington Children’s Chorus Take the Choir to the Child with Neighborhood Choir Program-Wilmington, Delaware

Evanston Civic Chorus United Through Harmony-Evanston, Wyoming

Evanston, Wyoming, population 12,400, was founded during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad.  The first train arrived in December 1868.  With an elevation of 6,800’, the city enjoys over 300 days of sunshine.  The mayor states on the town’s website, “I don’t think a day goes by that we don’t see an antelope or mule deer or maybe even both! Within the Bear River State Park we enjoy our own herd of buffalo and even a couple of bull elk!”

Since 2007, the Evanston Civic Chorus, a non-auditioned group, has been welcoming singers and enriching the community with their choral concerts.  It began as a community class offered by Uinta B.O.C.E.S #1 Education Center and then in 2012, the Evanston Civic Orchestra board voted to adopt the Civic Chorus, so membership was no longer by class enrollment.  “Though the details of how the Chorus functions have changed, and membership varies from year to year, the focus on community has remained constant since the beginning.  Singing together as a community unites us - Unison through Harmony.”

In addition to their two concerts a year, the chorus has performed at the Memorial Day Ceremony, the Fresh Air, Freedom and Fun Festival on July 4th, the Uinta County Museum Dedication, and the opening ceremony of the Tour of Utah bike race.  According to their website, “some of their most meaningful performances have been for audiences at the State Hospital and the Senior Center.”
 

Symphony Chorus of New Orleans Embodies the Resilient Spirit of the “Big Easy”-New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is known for many things including its architecture, cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and its distinct music tradition.  The “Big Easy” has remained resilient in the face of defying odds. A large portion of the city is situated at or below sea level after all!  Those organizations who thrive despite the odds are those who are able to adapt.  Symphony Chorus of New Orleans is one of those organizations.

Symphony Chorus (then, known as New Orleans Symphony Chorus) was founded in 1981 by Larry Wyatt under the auspices of the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra. When the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra ceased operations in 1991 and re-emerged as the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chorus reorganized as an entity separate from the orchestra and became known as Symphony Chorus of New Orleans.  While the group specializes in the performance of choral-orchestral works, the 60-member volunteer community chorus performs numerous concerts each year under the direction of Steven Edwards that include a variety of popular, R&B, and jazz-based New Orleans music.  The chorus has performed in Carnegie Hall twice, and in 2016 they travelled to Florence, Italy to perform with the Orchestra da Camera Fiorentina.

The stated mission of the chorus is “To make a difference in the lives of our singers, our audience, and our community through the power and beauty of choral singing.”  To that end, the group premieres new works, hosts choral workshops that are open to the community and collaborates with Singers of United Lands (SOUL) to provide educational outreach to numerous elementary, middle, and high school students.  The week-long residency has sent the SOUL Vocal Quartet to sing and do workshops in the Greater New Orleans Area’s public, private, and parochial schools, libraries, retirement communities, colleges, and universities. The week culminates in a festival concert featuring SOUL, SCNO, and area school and college choirs performing multi-cultural choral music that has included selections from 40 countries in 34 different languages over the last decade.

Lowcountry Voices Celebrate Rich Cultural Heritage of the African-American Choral Tradition-North Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina’s coastal region, known as the Lowcountry, has a rich musical history that has been shaped by people who have inhabited the region, including the native Edisto, Sewee and Kiawah Indians, planters from Barbados, early French Huguenot settlers and of course West African and Caribbean slaves brought to work the rice, indigo and later, cotton, plantations that were the Carolinas' economic engine. Today the influences of Gullah culture, including remnants of a creole-based language and culinary and craft traditions, are a vital part of Lowcountry heritage.

In 2012, Nathan Nelson founded Lowcountry Voices, a multicultural and ethnically diverse choral performing arts organization based in North Charleston, SC, in an effort to give voice to those distinct traditions and to preserve the cultural legacy and authenticity of African-American music.  Its repertoire includes traditional and contemporary gospel music, spirituals, hymns, jazz, classical choral music, and music from the theater and movies.  The choir is based in North Charleston, but its members are drawn from across the entire Lowcountry region and beyond.  

LCV has cultivated partnerships with various choirs in the region, including the College of Charleston Gospel Choir and Claflin University Concert Choir, and has performed at the Inaugural Lincoln Center Global Exchange Evening Performance and with James Taylor in 2015.  The Lowcountry Voices provided music at the services for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the slain pastor of the Mother Emanuel AME tragedy, and provided the background singing behind President Obama’s rendition of Amazing Grace.  In July, 2015, LCV took the sounds of the Lowcountry internationally to Bermuda for two enthusiastically received performances. 

Appalachian Children’s Chorus Empowering West Virginia's Youth -Charleston, West Virginia

The Appalachian Children’s Chorus, located in West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston (pop. approx. 51,000), was founded in 1990 by Selina Midkiff with just 12 singers.  Today, they serve as the official Children’s Chorus of West Virginia, and, in that capacity, they have performed for governors, presidents and heads of state, and travelled to Carnegie Hall and on international tours to Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Ireland and England.  The choir’s mission is “to provide artistic excellence, a quality music education and extraordinary opportunities while creating a positive effect on the lives of West Virginia’s youth.”

The organization has grown to include six choirs of children in kindergarten through 12th grade that are located in three counties.  ACC welcomes children of all racial, cultural, religious and economic backgrounds and provides opportunities to offer a superior music education, to experience the world through music of other cultures, and to foster the personal and social growth of choir members.  The choir hosts the national Appalachian Festival of Young Voices, an annual celebration of folk music in mountain tradition. “The chorus's history is rich with tradition, replete with spirit and ably representative of all that is good about the State of West Virginia.” 

Newport Navy Choristers On A Mission to Raise Funds for Local Non-Profits -Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island is home to the Naval Station Newport, which houses the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Justice School, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and a major U.S. Navy training center.  For over 60 years, the Newport Navy Choristers have gathered to present choral programs that raise money for charitable organizations and to provide enjoyable concerts for their audiences.  Membership is open to active duty, reserve and retired military personnel (both office and enlisted) of all the armed services and the dependents age 16 or over as well as Department of Defense civilian employees and their dependents. 

The Choristers perform four concerts a year, and since 1961, they have raised over $400,000 for organizations in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, including The Fort Adams Trust, The Museum of Irish History, Stopover Services of Newport County, the Middletown Senior Center, Edward King House, Shepherd’s Center of Fall River, Newport Historical Society, and Looking Upwards.  The Nautical Notes and the Sea Chanteys are two subgroups of the chorus who perform at annual concerts and in smaller venues.

The Choristers have also participated in many local Navy observances and memorials throughout the years, including Navy Night at the Pops at Symphony Hall, Boston and events celebrating the 200th Birthday of the U.S. Navy (both in 1975), commissioning of USS Normandy (1989) and USS Chafee (2003), and numerous Naval War College graduation ceremonies to name a few.  Here’s a performance of You Are My Sunshine sung for a concert to benefit the Edward King House Senior Center.

Palouse Choral Society Creating A Window To the World in the Quad-City Region of Idaho

With a population of over 1.6 million people, Idaho is the 14th largest and the 7th least populated state with around 38% of its land held by the United States Forest Service, the most of any state.  Since the mid-1970s, the Palouse Choral Society has been serving the quad–city region by “celebrating choral music through masterful performances, educational outreach, and cultural enrichment with singers from the Palouse, Valley, Prairie, and Clearwater regions.” 

The group typically performs four concerts a year under their new music director, Dr. Sarah Graham.  “Music is a way we can affect and have an effect on people emotionally and mentally,” Graham said. “I think in the choral arts we can create programs that educate and open people up to new ideas and cultures.  The choral arts embody the traditions of societies across the globe. These traditions and the cultures that come with them can be shared through choir. When these different cultures are shared, an empathetic understanding is developed for the different type of people that inhabit our planet.”

Her programming for the upcoming season will do just that with programs that include Christmas music from around the world, a concert dedicated to the genre of African-American Spirituals, and a concert tribute to Native American cultures.

The group recently started a Palouse/Two Rivers Beer Choir chapter, which is part of a national phenomenon promoting social singing at bars, pubs, and breweries, and in the fall of 2015, they established the PCS Children’s Choir for 4th – 8th grade program students to foster a new generation of singing in the Palouse and Valley regions.

Refugees in Tacoma Joining Their Voices in Song

Since 1975, the United States has welcomed over 3 million refugees according to the U.S. Department of State’s Refugee Processing Center.  Each year the President, in consultation with Congress, determines the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions. Washington state is one of the top ten resettlement states and since 2010, the state has brought in 16,504 refugees from 46 countries. In the city of Tacoma, the Tacoma Refugee Choir Project is embracing refugees with open arms.  

The choir is a non-auditioned group founded by Erin Guinup in 2016.  Erin partnered with the Tacoma Community House, a 107-year old organization committed to welcoming refugees and immigrants, on a pilot project in September 2016.  The project culminated in a performance for Citizenship Day at which nearly 100 new American citizens were sworn in.  In January of this year, she began weekly choir rehearsals at Tacoma Community College.  Erin says, “Music is powerful. It has the ability to reach across the lines that divide us and bring us together. When we sing, we are a multitude of voices coming together in harmony. The Tacoma Refugee Choir Project is more than a choir— it is a community of friends.”  The group strives to maintain a non-partisan stance and welcomes refugees, immigrants and those who wish to show solidarity. Many of the songs chosen for the chorus are translated and sung in a variety of languages including Kurdish, Arabic, Korean and Cambodian.  The choir is actively building relationships with other community organizations and will collaborate with a local middle school choir in June. 

Guinup says, “In this time where fear, helplessness and hopelessness are so pervasive, I have come to believe that our work as musicians is increasingly critical.  Musicians are uniquely equipped to build bridges and help people empathize and communicate about complex issues.  Music is often said to be the international language, and it has the potential to help us understand one another, stand with each other in times of need, and begin to resolve some of the conflicts facing our world today.”  Learn more about the project and the stories of the refugees by watching the recent news story and by visiting the group's website.  

 

 

Central Dakota Children's Choir (Bismarck, ND)-Inspiring New Generation of Singers/Creating Community in Sparsely Populated State

North Dakota, with a population of approximately 758,000 (Census Bureau 2016), is the fourth least populated and fourth least densely populated state in the US.  It is in the capital city of Bismarck (metro population 130,000) that the Central Dakota Children’s Choir has created a thriving community of young singers who are enriching and strengthening the social fabric of the metro area and serving as cultural ambassadors for the state.  The choir program has grown to include six different choirs of over 300 singers in grades 2-12 from 47 schools around the region.

The choirs perform nearly 40 concerts in schools, churches and other venues annually for approximately 15,000 people and sponsor several music education programs throughout the year.  Their members come from a variety of backgrounds and attend private, public, and homeschools.  According to its website, “Central Dakota Children's Choir's mission is to provide a unique choral education and experience to the children of central North Dakota, to enrich the artistic community, and to serve as ambassadors for our state through music and education.”  The group offers tuition waivers to make the program financially accessible to students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds.  Because the choir has been around for nearly twenty years, they have graduated a broad base of alumni who continue to return each spring to join forces with the other choristers.  

Learn more about the work of the Central Dakota Children’s Choir by watching the video below.

 

After Election, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Changes 40th Anniversary Tours Plans To Engage In Dialogue

This is going to be quite a week!  Tomorrow, we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and this coming Friday, our country swears in a new president.  Regardless of who one voted for, the election results surprised nearly everyone.  As someone who hails from Indiana and has lived in New York City for twenty years, I have witnessed first-hand the growing chasm between the "red states" and "blue states."  As the population has shifted to urban areas, the ideological divide has only deepened.  Our tendency is to surround ourselves with others who share our world view and eschew those whose views differ.  Our ability to listen (really listen) and to empathize with our neighbors has been replaced with online attacks on complete strangers.

After the election, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus made the decision to cancel their international tour in celebration of their 40th anniversary season and to replace it with a tour to Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee.  Their director Tim Seelig summed up their decision with these words.  "In response to the election, we decided we have as much work to do at home as we would do abroad.  We want to go to those places that are still strongholds of this kind of discrimination and bigotry.  And bring our voice.  And encourage people there with our music.  And also hopefully change some hearts and minds."  This is the work we all should commit ourselves to, whether our candidate won the election or not.  This is the power of choral music.  If we can listen to each other's song, maybe we'll be willing to listen to each other's words.  Here's the video the SFGMC released to announce the Lavender Pen Tour.  Learn more about the chorus and the tour at http://www.sfgmc.org/