San Diego Women’s Chorus joins forces with the Human Dignity Foundation and the Indigo Girls to raise money for a lesbian health initiative
Morgan M. Hurley | GSD Editor
Though it’s been around for decades, the San Diego Women’s Chorus (SDWC) admittedly has often struggled to make their mark in the community.
They host two large concerts per year, one in spring and one near the holidays; their musical skills are often sought after for special events; and they generally play whenever they are asked, but they have never been able to reach the same level of visibility, or success, of their male counterparts the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.
Thanks to a recent opportunity given to them by the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation (SDHDF), that may finally change.
On May 18, the SDWC will perform for the first time at the historic Balboa Theatre and they will be opening for — and singing with — the legendary Indigo Girls.
The concert will act as a fundraiser for not only the SDWC, but also a new endowment project of the SDHDF, the Lesbian Health Initiative.
Last spring the SDWC, who had received funding in years past from the foundation, approached them once again. Chorus President and Alto 1 Carin Scheinin said she just wanted to “get the conversation started” regarding the possibility of a small grant.
She said Executive Director John Brown asked them to come in to talk and what they got was much more than she ever expected.
“They were ready to launch this new Lesbian Health Initiative and looking for organizations to partner with,” Scheinin said. “They thought we’d be a perfect organization to do fundraising with and get it off the ground.”
According to its website, the SDHDF “is the sole community foundation in our region dedicated to the benefit of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.”
The local nonprofit helps finance projects and programs that “promote equal treatment, tolerance, wellness, well-being, and above all else, human dignity.” The Lesbian Health Initiative will focus on developing specific outreach services and programs for preventive care.
With the SDWC’s theme of “Songs of Protest, Songs of Peace” already selected, the two groups began brainstorming ideas to take the group’s annual spring concert to another level with the hopes of raising money for both causes.
“We threw out a bunch of names and Indigo Girls came up very early,” Scheinin said. “But we thought they’d be out of our price range. We needed someone willing to understand that we were doing this as a fundraiser.”
With a 100-member-strong chorus, an endowment’s sponsorship list, a theme and a cause that would both knowingly resonate — and Brown tapped to head up the negotiations — the two nonprofits decided to take a chance and reach out to the Indigo Girls.
“We talked and talked and talked to their people and they wanted to find a way to make it work,” Brown said. “They liked the idea. So we worked and worked and worked and finally, all the stars aligned and they said yes.”
“It took a number of months but they said yes and we were shocked and thrilled,” Scheinin said. “It was definitely a shot in the dark and we were incredibly pleased they saw the benefit in what we were doing.”
Though the iconic lesbian duo is donating their time, SDHDF is covering all the out of pocket costs for them and their crew; but Brown sees the entire endeavor as worth every penny.
“When we announced to the chorus that they’d be singing with the Indigo Girls,” he said, “some of them started crying they were so excited and moved, and that is really satisfying for us.”
Brown is equally committed to the SDHDF’s new initiative, which stands to receive 40 percent of the concert’s proceeds. He said that although the specific criteria for the endowment is still evolving, they expect to have an RFP out on the street by fall and the first round of grants awarded by the end of the year. He said will be looking to women leaders in the community to lead the charge and they’ll have his full support.
As it turns out, Scheinin herself may have been one of the chorus members who shed a tear or two at the news the Indigo Girls would be sharing the stage with them; she has been a devoted fan of the band since coming out in college and has seen the group 30 or 40 times.
“I definitely went through a phase in my life where I travelled to Atlanta, and I saw them in Chicago … and up in Vancouver and all the way down the coast,” she said. “That summer [after graduating college] I saw them 10 or 11 times over a two week period.
“They are a really important artists and they were there for me in a very important transformative time in my life,” she said.
The format of the concert is different from that of a traditional concert, but ticket holders should enjoy it.
The SDWC will “open” with their traditional spring concert program, Scheinin said, which will last approximately 45 minutes and include 13 or 14 selections. Then the Indigo Girls will take the stage and perform five or six songs before the chorus returns to join them for a finale consisting of two popular Indigo Girls songs that match the “Songs of Protest, Songs of Peace” theme.
When it comes to the concert’s overall theme, Scheinin doesn’t want people to be confused about what it stands for.
“We certainly will cover [music of the ‘60s and anti-war songs] but we are also doing songs about civil rights and an amazing anti-apartheid song, and we are doing a ‘60s medley but we’re also doing more contemporary stuff. We’re singing ‘Talking About a Revolution’ by Tracy Chapman and … we’re singing ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles, and some really fantastic choral pieces that fit into this idea of singing for peace and singing to overcoming oppression,” she said.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the Human Dignity Foundation for presenting this opportunity to us,” Scheinin said.
The SDWC will present their spring concert, “Songs of Protest, Songs of Peace,” May 18 starting at 7 p.m. at the Balboa Theatre, located at 868 Fourth Ave., Downtown.
A VIP party will take place immediately following the concert at the Hard Rock Café at 801 Fourth Ave., for all the sponsors that helped make the evening happen and those who pay $250 for better seating and access to the party, which will have food and a hosted bar for the first hour.
For more information visit mylgbtfoundation.org or sdwc.org. Tickets are on sale now. General admission seating can be purchased through Ticketmaster. VIP tickets can be purchased by calling 619-291-3383.