How does Twin Cities Women’s Choir bond as a group?
We have a singers’ Facebook page where members can share events and find many ways to connect outside of rehearsal. We organize potlucks a few times a year and volunteer together to support organizations that share our building, such as the Urban Arts Academy and the food shelf at Calvary Lutheran. Also, our eight section leaders often host sectional rehearsals at their homes, which definitely focus as much on fun and getting to know each other as on learning the music.
An emotional moment in rehearsal?
My father passed away on May 1, 2017, and we performed our spring gala concert three days later on May 4. I remember coming back to town for the dress rehearsal on the 3rd, and having choir members ask how could I possibly be there. I let them know how much my dad loved that I was a musician, how much he loved this choir, and how he would want me to be nowhere else but with this wonderful community.
Anything in rehearsals that surprises new members?
Both directors use humor in rehearsal as a way to communicate and to liven up the mood when needed. New singers soon realize it is OK to laugh (at us and at themselves!).
A good laugh is so important! Any funny moments you can share with us?
The Alto 2s are known for planning pranks to surprise the directors, and scheme for weeks in their sectionals how best to achieve their mischievous goals. They will pick a specific phrase, find something to do that highlights that phrase, then coordinate their surprise attack in rehearsal next time that phrase is rehearsed. We have had a sea of red hats appear, chocolate and brassieres thrown at us, 40 masks of the assistant director’s face show up, and many other things that completely derail the rehearsal for several minutes.
Something you do with your choir that others should consider
We memorize all of our music for every concert! This allows for wonderful direct communication between singers and directors, and between singers and the audience. Many times our audience members comment on how fun we are to watch in performance, because our faces are free to express the lyrics and the music rather than being tied to notation.
A memorable moment for your choir?
One of the more challenging pieces we have sung is “Only Light, Only Love” by Joan Szymko. At one low point in preparing music for our February 2019 concert, I suggested we cut it because I didn’t think we could do it justice. The choir members strongly disagreed, and fought to keep it in the program. They thought the message in the lyrics was so important to hear in these difficult times – they re-energized their commitment to learning it.
How did the performance go?
In performance, as the piece progressed, a magical energy happened. We collectively understood the power of our shared desire to perform this piece well, and we were delighted to be a part of having it unfold in such a beautiful way!
Any other unforgettable performances?
Two come to mind:
- Our 20th Anniversary celebration brought together singers from the past 20 years including twelve of the founding mothers and our Director Emerita. The repertoire highlighted favorites from the past, as well as songs focusing on our vision for the next 20 years.
- We were invited to join the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus for their concert Rise Up! in March of 2018. We were warmly welcomed into their organization, invited to sing “Bread and Roses” and “Quiet,” then joined the Gay Men’s Chorus for “Anthem” and “We Rise Again” in a powerful finale.
How about a favorite piece of repertoire?
It’s hard to choose just one piece, but we have a favorite group of pieces. The Twin Cities Women’s Choir has commissioned and arranged over 50 pieces for women’s choirs, and we love knowing we are contributing to the literature for SSAA groups.
Any particularly challenging performances you can think of?
We had the fun of sharing the stage with a professional bluegrass band a few years back. Because of their busy performance schedule, they were not able to join us for a prior dress rehearsal, So, with 130 amateur singers, we rehearsed with them on two joint songs one hour before the show and then went into performance!
How did you face it?
We faced it by acknowledging the stress it caused, and by rehearsing our parts of the shared songs with different tempos and styles so we were prepared for anything!
Any favorite inspirational quotes?
“We’ve done the work, now it’s time to give the gift.” (said by Director Emerita, Mary Bussman at the warm up rehearsal before a performance)
And one of my favorite quotes is, “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”
Janice Hunton is a conductor and performer who focuses her musical energy through engaging amateur voices in healthy technique, collaboration, and the joy of creating music together. Janice performed as a member of the Dale Warland Singers and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale. She earned a Master of Music degree in theory from Indiana University.