|Exciting Plans for 2016
Looking ahead with anticipation and gratitude
Hello Dear Friends,
Our fall concert, Rivers, Valleys, Mountains: Our Life's Journey, was a huge success! Thank you to Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers for their participation and to all of you who continually support our mission through song.
Our April concert will be a wonderful collaboration with MYCincinnati youth orchestra and Nate May, an amazing young composer from CCM. Nate is writing an oratorio based on interviews with members of the Cincinnati Appalachian Community, right here in our new home base in Price Hill and Lower Price Hill. This is what Nate has to say about the work, entitled "State":
is a musical setting of interviews I conducted with Appalachians in Cincinnati this summer through an Appalachian Sound Archives fellowship from Berea College. Featuring soloist Kate Wakefield and percussion group Three By Radio, the piece has the trappings of an oratorio, which puts it in the tradition of Handel's Messiah, and Haydn's Creation, even though it is very different in form and subject matter from these works.
Textually, I'm trying to create a cross-section of urban Appalachian experience-featuring both highly universal and highly particular aspects of contemporary life for Appalachians in Cincinnati-as well as create some context for what it means to be an urban Appalachian, especially with respect to the immense wave of migration that happened in the middle decades of the 20th century. Musically I'm playing with assumptions about Appalachian music-that it all arises from a single mountain folk tradition, and that to be Appalachian means to be insulated from other styles of music. I'm using a banjo in some unexpected ways, and looking for other meaningful sonic connections to the region and people, such as using scrap metal purchased from an interviewee as percussion instruments. The choir is primarily conceived as a swarm of voices, creating intricately-woven textures of sound that gradually morph from shimmers and pulses to grooves and back, while Kate sings melodies that alternate between lush and syncopated.
I've been thrilled to see the talent and enthusiasm of MUSE as they've explored and begun the difficult work on this project. I'm also grateful for grants from People's Liberty and Artswave that have ensured that this will be a high quality project that is also highly visible, bringing attention both to MUSE and to the large yet often-forgotten Appalachian population of Cincinnati.
We, too, are excited about this project and hope that you will join us on April 15th, 16th, or 17th for the premiere of this innovative work.
In addition, please keep your calendars open for our Spring Concert on June 4th and 5th. We will be featuring a commission written by Rosephanye Powell based on the words of Maya Angelou's poem, "Phenomenal Woman". This is going to be a powerful concert; you will not want to miss it!
As we begin the new year, I can't believe that this is already my 3rd season with MUSE, Cincinnati's Women's Choir. It has been an incredible journey: wonderful, challenging and eye opening. MUSE has a passion for social justice and change that is relentless. Our new mission statement says it so beautifully: "An inclusive and feminist choral community advocating for social justice and peace." It was this part of MUSE that drew me here from Seattle: a choir that was not only top notch musically but had a purpose behind their songs. I am blessed to work with such a fine organization.
Thank you for your continued support of MUSE. Together, we will continue to change lives for the better.
May you have blessed new year, and may we experience peace in 2016!
"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent."
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Continuing the work that makes us MUSE
This past year MUSE adopted new mission, vision and values statements. Social justice is a key concept uniting all these statements. The mission statement says "MUSE is an inclusive and feminist choral community advocating for peace and social justice". The values statement presents social justice as one of the four pillars of our organization, saying "we are artist activists blending concert and conversation to ignite dialogue that continues after the last notes are sung."
In 2015, MUSE found many opportunities to live our commitment to social justice. Small groups of MUSE singers lent their voices in support of community activities, often under the direction of our Assistant Conductor, Lois Shegog. In 2015 we sang in support of the following events and programs:
Jan. 10: Vigil for Leelah Alcorn
April 23: Take Back the Night
June 27: Cincinnati Pride Parade
Sept.18: Off The Streets graduation
Oct. 6: Vigil for Victims of Domestic Violence
Nov. 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance
Dec. 16: Interfaith prayer service in support of peace and unity in our community
For many in MUSE, these performances are as important as our major concerts, as they bring us into contact with many other activists and offer opportunities to learn about the work for justice in our city.
Another way we "ignite dialogue" is through our choice of songs and the introductions to these pieces in our concerts. In this year's Fall Concert, we chose to return to two songs from our Sweet Honey in the Rock repertoire-"I'm Gon' Stand" and "Ella's Song." We sang the text:
"Until the killing of black men,
black mothers' sons,
is as important as the killing of white men,
white mother's sons,
We who believe in freedom cannot rest"
A representative from Black Lives Matter came to our Fall retreat and engaged the choir through song, chant and dialogue to better understand their movement. We then chose to take time in our concert to spotlight the Black Lives Matter Movement through an introduction that included recitations of the last words of the latest victims of violence against African-Americans at the hands of those who are sworn to protect them.
We want to join with the Friends of MUSE and the wonderful people who come to our concerts and events to continue to ignite dialogue and work together to create a more just and peaceful world. Thank you for your support for MUSE and our mission.
Diana Porter, Alto I
Social Justice Committee
New Soprano I Becky James
Say hello to our new first soprano, Becky James. Originally from Grayson, Kentucky, Becky came to Cincinnati as part of AmeriCorps. She stayed on in Cincinnati and now works for a consumer rights law firm.
Becky continues to spend a good deal of her time volunteering. She belongs to a community service sorority through which she participates in a variety of service events. She is even an advisor for the sorority on the UC campus.
Becky has been singing all her life in school and church choirs. She currently sings with both MUSE and the Young Professional Choral Collective. Becky first heard MUSE sing at an MLK Day gathering and was drawn to the group. She is enjoying singing with MUSE and especially likes the message of the music. When asked to describe MUSE in one word, she replied "beautiful"! 1. She loves to read and among her current books are "The Secret Gospels" and "The Other Exodus"
Five quick facts about Becky James
2. Becky enjoys crafts and has recently discovered that she enjoys painting
3. Her favorite food is seafood (except crab)
4. Her favorite MUSE song (so far) is "What Have You Done? "
5. In the car, Becky listens to "anything but talk"
Marti Mohar, Soprano I
Membership Circle Co-Chair
Paula joined the MUSE Alto IIs in August,1992, the beginning of our 9th season! When asked what has kept her coming to all those Monday night rehearsals she immediately replies the music, the opportunity to meet and sing with women different from herself and whom she would not encounter otherwise, going to new places and events in the city and beyond, and experiencing the energy that comes from singing together. Her MUSE favorites: Song - Mother's Prayer; concert - the Appalachian ones; workshop - working with Ysaye Barnwell; travel opportunity - Raise Your Banners, Festival of Political Song in Sheffield England in Nov. '99.
Paula hails from a farm in Nicholasville, KY. Her family of origin was Appalachian and Irish and she has 2 brothers. She has been with her partner Meg for 26 years and a few years back Meg gave Paula one of her kidneys. She and Meg share their home with an Airedale/Border Collie mix dog who has to stay home when they travel to Italy and France. Paula is a retired physician who spends her time now on artistic work in acrylics and oils and drawings in her studio in Loveland. She also is learning French and Italian and plays banjo and piano.
If she could be a fruit or vegetable she'd like to be a pomegranate and if she could be an animal she would be a jersey cow.
Angie Denov, Soprano II
Membership Circle Co-Chair