The Women’s Chorus of Dallas proves just why the city needs them
M.M. Adjarian | Contributing Writer MMAdjarian@GMail.com
For more than 20 years, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas thrived, happily performing with SMU’s Caruth Auditorium as its base of operation. But when the chance came last March to become one of the companies based in the new AT&T Performing Arts Center, the group leapt at the opportunity.
“It was pretty powerful when we first moved in there and had our first rehearsal,” recalls Melinda Imthurn, TWCD’s artistic director. “It felt like a different chorus. The women — I could just see it in their faces and hear it in their voices — felt [like] they were home.”
The chorus had arrived — in more ways than one. The move sent a clear message about TWCD’s importance as a Dallas arts organization, and “[as a specifically] women’s arts organization in the Arts District,” says Imthurn. The group does their part to let Dallas shine as part of this weekend’s Gala Choruses Annual
Leadership Conference and plays host, with the Turtle Creek Chorale, as the resident vocal groups of this area.
Like most music groups of its kind, the chorus —originally founded in 1989 as a lesbian community arts organization — started small. The Women’s Chorus has matured into a group with a diverse membership and a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic face reflective of the city’s denizens. Choral performers come from all walks of life and sexual orientations and bring with them a wide range of musical talents, abilities and skills.
That diversity doesn’t stop at the kinds of women who perform with the chorus. The group incorporates costumes, dancing and the spoken word into its concerts, enhancing the overall vocal vibrancy. As Imthurn explains, these performance extras, combined with concerts that are scripted to more resemble theatrical presentations, “make the music more accessible to people, especially those who might not have experience with choral music.”
And then there’s the superbly eclectic repertoire. Much of what TWCD performs at any given concert is choral music from the venerable European tradition. But there are the musical surprises that include everything from Billboard hits to Broadway show tunes to African folk songs … all presented without missing a stylistic beat. TWCD prides itself on being appropriate to each genre. “[It’s] something the chorus works hard at,” says Imthurn.
In keeping with its mission to promote the “strength, diversity and joy of women,” much of the material that the chorus presents is, one way or another, woman-centered. And it is one of the few organizations that gives voice, both literally and figuratively, to lesbian themes onstage. One of the upcoming projects that Imthurn is especially excited about for the 2010–11 season is a performance at the Texas Discovery Garden for Mother’s Day.
“What we’ll be doing for that particular performance is first [to] sing songs that honor mothers, grandmothers, parental-type figures, mentors, teachers and secondly [to sing songs] about nature,” Imthurn says. TWCD members will then encircle the garden’s butterfly sanctuary and 100 butterflies will be released.
TWCD also maintains a keen sense of social mission. It has actively raised awareness of issues pertaining to AIDS and domestic violence prevention; it also participates in fundraising for such organizations as AIDS LifeWalk, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
According to Imthurn, in everything it does, the chorus is clearly a group that takes the “art” in “heart” and brings it to a new level … which is what drew Imthurn — who started as a performer with TWCD in 2004 — to the group in the first place.
“What made me fall in love with the chorus was the heart of the chorus and the heart you can hear in the music,” she says.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.