We'll performance Strong Voices three times this fall. See date/location/ticket information at right, and scroll down in this column for more information about the concert and maps to the venues. There will be no advance ticketing, just a suggested donation at the door.
The 125-voice Boulder-based Resonance Women’s Chorus joins with Fort Collins author Rita Kissen to illuminate and honor the power of women singing together through centuries. Resonance and Kissen will trade songs and spoken word in a refreshing and inspiring one-hour concert.
Kissen’s newly-published book, Strong Voices: The Story of the Women’s Chorus Movement, offers a rich history of the power of women’s voices to create and support change, beginning with the Bible’s story of Miriam leading women in song and the “transgressive singing” of the Benedictine nun Hildegard in the Middle Ages. She talks about the subversiveness of Yiddish labor choruses of the early 20th century, the profound power of women’s voices in the civil rights movement, the heady empowerment of the ‘’women’s music” community in the 1970s, the richness of the network of feminist choruses which grew out of that, and much more. Based on over 100 interviews with choral singers, directors and composers, as well as historical accounts of women’s choral lives over the centuries, Strong Voices elevates the feminist/lesbian choral movement to its rightful place in the historical, musical, and cultural record.
Resonance Women’s Chorus of Boulder sings contemporary women’s choral music with an emphasis on songs of social awareness, with the intention of nourishing and affirming all who are working to create social change in our community. “Our music is about paying attention, speaking up, and being alive in the world today,” says Resonance’s artistic director Sue Coffee.
Excerpts from Strong Voices:
“The songs of working people have always been their sharpest statement and the one statement which cannot be destroyed. You can burn books…but you cannot prevent singing. “ –John Steinbeck, quoted in Strong Voices.
“These songs said: We do not come from people who have had nothing. We come rather from people who’ve had everything—except money, except political power, except freedom. We understand, at last, listening to Sweet Honey, what our freedom songs are for. They show us the way home, which is the whole earth.”—Alice Walker, quoted in Strong Voices
Hot Wire and Paid My Dues editor Toni Armstrong, Jr., wrote that “in the 1970s the feminist and lesbian movements married each other, and their most beautiful and powerful daughter was named ‘women’s music and culture.’ ”—Strong Voices
More about the book (and keep scrolling to get to maps):
Strong Voices: The Story of the Women’s Chorus Movement
Strong Voices tells the story of how a coalition of singers that began as a mostly separatist musical home for the lesbian community grew into an inclusive network welcoming women of all sexual and gender orientations and singing for social justice in the wider world. Based on over 100 interviews with choral singers, directors and composers, as well as historical accounts of women’s choral lives over the centuries, Strong Voices celebrates the mission expressed by the network’s oldest chorus, Anna Crusis: “We sing to celebrate the diversity of women's lives and culture; to find communion; to nurture and sustain; to comfort and to heal; to open hearts and minds; and to struggle together for a just and compassionate world.”
Thirty years ago, these women’s choruses were among the few places where lesbians felt free to be themselves—in the words of one singer who had just come out in her school district, “the place to breathe.” Though LGBTQ people have become more visible in American society, women continue to find their authentic voices in feminist choruses.
Author Rita Kissen came to Colorado from Portland, Maine, where she taught English, Women’s Studies, and Teacher Education at the University of Southern Maine. As a community activist, she co-founded the first Maine chapters of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and was a media spokesperson for a successful citizen referendum that added LGBT protection to the Portland Human Rights ordinance. She is the author of two previous books, The Last Closet: The Real Lives of Lesbian and Gay Teachers (Heinemann 1996) and Getting Ready for Benjamin: Preparing Teachers for Sexual Diversity in the Classroom (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
United Church of Christ, 1500 9th Ave., Longmont, CO:
Saturday, Oct 26 at 5:00 pm
First United Methodist Church, 1421 Spruce St., Boulder, CO:
Thursday, Oct 31 at 7:30 pm
Foothills Unitarian, 1815 Yorktown Ave., Ft Collins, CO:
Sunday, Nov 3, 3:00 pm
Photo credit Jack Greene Photography