Union Songs

Brooklyn Women's Chorus

An article by Bev Grant (2007)

The Brooklyn Women's Chorus is a community chorus that was formed in October 1997 by Park Slope resident and musician, Bev Grant. The chorus has a repertoire ranging from South African freedom songs to socially relevant songs by contemporary American songwriters like Jolie Rickman, Pat Humphries and Bev Grant, herself. Topics range from freedom and justice, to peace, resistance, and women's labor history. There are no auditions necessary to join the Brooklyn Women's Chorus, only a strong desire to sing. It is Bev's contention that everyone can sing, and the proof is in the rousing performances by the chorus.

The Brooklyn Women's Chorus is more than a group that sings together. Many contribute their talents in various ways as poets, graphic artists, seamstresses, yoga instructors, breathing coaches, and more, as well as in sharing their joys and struggles with us all. We have begun combining our music with poetry, spoken word, and projected images in our concerts.

Our most recent performance took place on June 22, 2007 at the chorus’s annual concert. We presented a show, entitled "Mother of Exiles", using the theme of Emma Lazarus’s famous poem "…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…" etched on the Statue of Liberty, and traced the history of immigration from the first indigenous peoples, to the enslaved immigrants from Africa; from those escaping persecution and starvation in Europe and Russia to today’s diverse masses "yearning to breathe free", celebrating the contribution of all immigrants who have helped create what we call America. The audience gave us a standing ovation, and plans are in the works for more performances of the show in the fall.

The highlight of last year took place on October 11, 2006. After singing about her for a year, the Brooklyn Women's chorus finally met Rebecca Lolosoli. The story of Lolosoli's Umoja village in Kenya had inspired director Bev Grant to write the song, "Where Women Rule." Wearing an elaborate bead collar and traditional robes, Lolosoli listened with tears in her eyes as the Chorus sang her song. She spoke movingly about the experience of establishing the village 10 years ago as a sanctuary for women and shared with us the triumph of thriving under incredible odds and opposition. The chorus has continued to contribute materially to the village, by sending school supplies and money through MADRE, a women’s human rights organization that helps to sponsor their existence.

The Brooklyn Women’s Chorus is its own sanctuary for women who are seeking community and a safe place to find and raise their voice in song. More information is available at www.brooklynwomenschorus.com.

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