The closing plenary at the 2021 Chorus America Summer Conference, a panel discussion titled Personal Journeys, Collective Change, centered on Black voices in the choral community. The plenary served as a follow-up to a similar event at the 2020 gathering during which longtime African American choral leaders reflected on their careers and experiences. This year, representatives of a younger generation described the paths they have followed in choral music and where they find themselves today.
Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the recipients of its second round of 2021 grants. We are excited to see many of our partners and members represented in the list of awarded grants, including:
Bach Choir of Bethlehem
Cantare Con Vivo
Giving Voice Initiative
Kitka Women's Vocal Ensemble
Mendelssohn Club Of Philadelphia
BY KATHERINE CASTILLE
As it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic would wear on for months, many choruses launched digital initiatives to keep their music and their message in front of their audiences. Those with digital strategies already in place have stepped up their efforts. Others are just beginning to navigate this new frontier. All of them are learning valuable lessons about what digital content their audiences want and are willing to pay for.
With some help from Silicon Valley, we may be on our way to overcoming the choral field’s most persistent hurdle during the pandemic—latency from internet connections that prevents choruses from truly being able to hear each other and sing together synchronously online. Software entrepreneur Mike Dickey, a parent of the Ragazzi Boys Chorus of San Mateo, California, worked with Stanford University researchers to develop a technology platform called JackTrip Virtual Studio that makes real-time remote singing possible with common internet connections.
In a year when choruses and audiences are not able to gather in concert venues for some of their most beloved and time-honored traditions, many groups are coming up with new ways to celebrate the season.
A Letter from Catherine Dehoney
President and CEO, Chorus America
Dear choral colleagues,
I spent election night watching a movie to keep anxiety at bay, with brief breaks to check on the news. Every update on the vote count felt like another confirmation of the division present in our country and the uncertainty we all face. At one point, my husband Bill turned to me with a tired sigh and said, “Choruses are great, but I don’t think you can sing your way out of this.”
As this article is published, votes are still being counted in the 2020 United States general election - though for months now, the choral field has been using the power of our art to encourage the public to make their voices heard in this much-anticipated event. Our Chorus Impact Study has consistently found that choristers exhibit remarkably high levels of civic leadership, and the projects of these choruses and composers certainly live up to those research findings.
“Awake! Awake! Ye sisters all,” is the opening line to the “Suffrage Marching Song,” by Fanny Connable and Florence Livingston Lent, composed in 1914 to benefit the Equal Suffrage Cause. Like many political movements, the suffrage movement was inherently linked with music, making the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification a natural programmatic theme. Choruses across the U.S. are honoring this anniversary with new events and commissions featuring women’s voices, including premieres happening this weekend.
In the Summer 2020 issue of Chorus America's magazine, the Voice, we published a number of special features that highlighted the choral community's response in the wake of COVID-19. With in-person performances and rehearsals abruptly taken away, dozens of choral organizations showed their creativity by quickly finding new ways to make music and serve their communities.