The Rapidian

Grand Rapids Women's Chorus: Unity, inclusiveness and diversity through song

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Program for GR Women's Chorus Dec.4 winter concert

  1. Arise My Love - Composed by Joan Szymko as adapted from The Song Of Solomon and the traditional hymm tune At The River
  2. The Blessing - Words and music by Brendan Graham and David Downes, arranged by John Purifoy and originally recorded by Celtic Woman.
  3. Great Spirit - based on Native American text, music by Ivo Antognini
  4. Hine Ma Tov - Traditional Israeli folk song arranged by Madrigaia
  5. Hotaru Koi - a Japanese childrens song arranged by Ro Ogura
  6. She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear (Gamba Adisa) Text by Audre Lorde and music by Joan Szymko
  7. There's Hope - Words and music by Indea Arie, arranged by David Moore
  8. The Women Gather - Words and music by Carol Maillard
GRWC in Chicago July 2010

GRWC in Chicago July 2010 /Grand Rapids Women's Chorus

The sound of dozens of voices singing in harmony can be a powerful experience, one that brings a feeling of wholeness on a physical and emotional level. To achieve this takes a lot of practice and hard work on the part of the singers. This is what they don't show you on the television show “Glee” - the repetition of rehearsal, the tedium of singing the same section over and over.

This was in evidence at a recent rehearsal of the Grand Rapids Women's Chorus as the group rehearsed for their upcoming winter concert at at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Trinity United Methodist Church (1100 Lake SE). The group's hard work paid off as the women worked over a section of a song entitled “Arise my Love," a song with a melancholic melody juxtaposed with lyrics of hope and renewal, and the results were a gorgeous rendition that was gentle yet powerful.

The chorus began in 1996 “as a handful of women concerned that music composed or arranged by women was rarely performed in Grand Rapids,” according to the group's website.

Linda Troyer, who serves on the GRWC board of directors explained the appeal as the chorus celebrates its 15th year.

“There is a demand in Grand Rapids for a non-church chorus,” she said.

What also sets the GRWC apart is the content of their repertoire. “Our history is in the women's movement, the content is in social justice issues,” added Lori Tennenhouse, a member of the chorus since 1996.

“We are digging for composers who write pieces for mature women's voices,” Tennenhouse said.

“Nothing against bells and flowers and trees,” Troyer added with a laugh.

The diversity of the GRWC's song choices is what makes their performances unlike many holiday choral experiences around Grand Rapids. Songs like “Great Spirit,” based on Native American text, music by Ivo Antognini, “Hotaru Koi,” a Japanese childrens song arranged by Ro Ogura, and “The Women Gather,” words and music by Carol Maillard are just a few examples of the diversity and range that the GRWC bring to a performance.

Ann Earhardt, a member of the GRWC for the past seven years, likened the experience of being a member to that of being in “a family.” Earhardt, Tennenhouse and Troyer all agreed that what bonds the GRWC together is “chemistry.”

The members of the GRWC are as a diverse as the song choices in their repertoire. Some come from music backgrounds and others have never sung in a choir before. The choir holds try-outs once a year. The main criteria for membership is a “commitment to rehearsals and being open to diversity,” Tennenhouse said.

This credo is best exemplified by the GRWC T-shirt, which states “Unity, Inclusiveness, Diversity”.

When asked what they thought of the television show “Glee”, Tennenhouse and Troyer pointed out that the GRWC has performed the Glee arrangement of the song “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper.

“However,” added first year member De De Esque “We don't don't dance like they do on 'Glee.'”

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