San Diego Women’s Chorus celebrates with spring concert
By Kim Rescate and Ana Pines | GSD Reporters
The San Diego Women’s Chorus celebrates their 25th season with their “Heart & Harmony” concert Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6. Guest singer Randi Driscoll will make an appearance during the May 5 performance. Driscoll’s single “What Matters” was inspired by the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard and has raised more than $45,000 for the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
As well as “What Matters,” “Heart & Harmony” song selections include the Indigo Girls’s homage to the feminist author in “Virginia Woolf;” the gospel spiritual, “Take Me to the Water;” and Lady Gaga’s anthem to authenticity, “Born This Way.” Other pieces by feminist artists Cris Williamson, Margie Adam, Ferron and Holly Near will be highlighted as well.
“We always ask members to suggest songs,” said Carin Scheinin, president of the Women’s Chorus board, who also sings first alto in the group. “Our artistic director Chris Allen does a lot in finding music [for the chorus]. We chose songs that the chorus [has] sung in the past, songs that are still relevant and challenging [and] songs that spoke to the experiences of women,” Scheinin said.
Scheinin said the group’s guest artist, Driscoll, “is an amazing singer-songwriter,” who is donating her time to the group to sing. “It’s a beautiful piece; it’s a song about hope and love,” Scheinin said.
Community activist Cynthia Lawrence-Wallace established the chorus in 1987, which originally consisted of 14 members who rehearsed in Lawrence-Wallace’s living room. The group has grown since then, with over 70 current members. The group’s mission is to “encourage women’s creativity, celebrate diversity and inspire social action.”
“It has a feminist perspective, it’s queer friendly, it’s lesbian friendly [and] it’s open to all women who identif[y] as women. It’s really empowering,” said Naomi Suskind, who sings first alto and has been a member since January. Cohesion is an important facet to the chorus, Suskind said, adding, “Being together is what creates the music.”
Second alto Lauren Boismeir agreed with Suskind’s sentiment, saying chemistry is built during rehearsals and when one person is missing, the group feels the loss. “We develop bonds,” Boismeir said.
Sherri Ginand, a second soprano, has been in the chorus since 1991. “What I love about [the San Diego Women’s Chorus] is we’re family. We’re sisters. At the end of each rehearsal, we stand in a circle and share our concerns,” she said.
“There are women of all abilities in this chorus,” Boismeir said. “Some women do read music. [For] other women, this is their first experience, so they just know how to listen and just go by memory.” The group rehearses every Sunday at the Mission Hills United Church of Christ, located at 4070 Jackdaw St., the same location as the “Heart & Harmony” performances.
While the chorus’s musical selection has changed over the years, Ginand said, “The message has never changed. Back in the day, it was more folksy type of music, more of the kind of stuff that you would sing in marches,” she said. “Now we’re doing ethnic music [and] pop music. We’ve just become better as musicians.”
Ginand also said the audience has changed, too, with a mix of men and women, as well as families. She said the group might need to move their performances to other venues to accommodate their growth. “We’re getting more response. We’re growing out of our church venue. Pretty soon we’ll be in bigger venues,” she said.
After the “Heart & Harmony” concert, the group will begin rehearsing for the summer Pride season on May 20. The Pride season includes performances at regional Pride festivals, as well as participation in the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses International Festival, on July 7 – 11 in Denver.
For those that have not seen the group perform, Ginand said, “there’s nothing like live music. You can feel the vibrations on your chest [from] the instruments and the voices. It’s the heart.” During intermission, some members of the group will mingle with the audience, Ginand said, which she calls a warm and engaging “family reunion.”
General admission tickets for “Heart & Harmony” are $15 and tickets for children under 12 are free. The May 5 concert is at 7 p.m. and the May 6 concert is at 3 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit sdwc.org or call 619-291-3366.