Over a year ago, six women (an historian of American Women’s History, a musicologist, activists, and several conductors) gathered to discuss how women’s choruses could commemorate the upcoming 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Whereas we recognize the passage of the 19th as a major event, countless women remained (and still remain) disenfranchised. Could choruses join together, creating new music to capture the complexity of this issue?
In the end, composer Joan Szymko was selected as the one to carry the torch. Seventeen choruses will perform her new work, Lifting As We Climb, during the year 2020. These choruses will meet for a mass-choir performance during the Festival of GALA Choruses, taking place in Minneapolis in July. Of course, Seattle Women’s Chorus will be there. But our first performance (actually THE first performance) is here and now.
Szymko’s new work comprises 3 movements of music. They open with the current climate of voting rights today, then look back in celebration of the struggles women endured in order to win the right to vote. Finally, Szymko looks ahead to ask how we can engage to achieve real change for all women of all ethnic backgrounds in a world that is often unjust. In addition to music, the piece utilizes spoken quotations from Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, and others.
We’re starting off, though, with a set of songs that serve as thematic fence posts for the rest of the show. The opening number alludes to the revolution that occurred a century ago (the Suffrage movement), as well as the social revolution of the 1960s and the ongoing fight for equity and access regarding race and gender. The lyrics for Ruth Huber’s Signs are based on slogans carried in the historic Women’s March. And one of Bob Marley’s greatest hits, Redemption Song, features lyrics derived from “The Work That Has Been Done,” a speech given by Marcus Garvey.
Collectively, the songs on this show illustrate historic victories, failures, and current societal tensions. The theatrical arc could be summated with the phrase, “Three steps forward, two steps back.” Nonetheless, forward we go.
We'll see you at Revolution 2020! Tickets are available for the following performances:
Seattle First Baptist Church
Friday, January 31 - 8:00 pm*
Saturday, February 1 - 2:00 pm
Saturday, February 1 - 8:00 pm
*with certified ASL interpretation
Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center
Saturday, February 8 - 8:00 pm