Monday, October 22, 2018

SWC Makes Jubilant Noise

Alexandria Henderson guest stars with SWC (Conrado Tapado)

Hear Me Roar
October 12-13, Seattle First Baptist Church
October 20, 2018, Highline Performing Arts Center, Burien

The Seattle Women’s Chorus is making jubilant noise – it’s their 15th anniversary and their current concert focuses on energetic empowerment of women. Gathering this past weekend in the upstairs chapel of their normal basement rehearsal hall, the women performed a range of both classic songs and covers of up-to-date rockers. Saturday, they will perform in Burien, if you would love to see them and missed the Seattle performances.

The first song is a history of humble beginnings. “Genesis” says first there was “a potluck.” That belies a much longer story of struggle to convince the leaders of the already-venerable Seattle Men’s Chorus to stretch and add a Women’s Chorus. It was by no means a simple proposition and the growing pains were both difficult for some and a no-brainer for others at the same time.

Today, just as the Men’s Chorus is one of the largest male choruses in the world, the Women’s Chorus is one of the largest female choruses in the world. Yep, right here in Seattle! You’d think New York or Los Angeles would have bigger LGBTQ choruses, but you’d be wrong.
The first act includes Katy Perry’s “Roar,” which gives the event’s title some connection. A wonderful Bulgarian wedding song, “Svatba,” is a complicated, sophisticated arrangement that shows how well the women can manage another language and foreign rhythms. But Artistic Director Paul Caldwell tells us that it’s far from a simple, happy wedding song. It references the sometimes difficult transition of very young girls into marriage, often for economic reasons.

A Gertrude Stein piece, we’re told, is said to be the first time in modern history that the word “Gay” is used to mean homosexual and the Chorus sings “Quite Regularly Gay” where Stein repeats that word over and over, perhaps to make it perfectly clear.

A current hit, “Scars to Your Beautiful,” has a particularly standout soloist, Tara Street! Most every soloist chosen from either Chorus is a great one. The Choruses are blessed with fantastic talent. Street sounded like she could go out and cut a demo record right this minute and hit the radio with it! (For those who might want to read the beautiful lyrics from Alessia Caro’s song, here’s the link: )

Toward the end of Act 1, the featured concert soloist joins in. Alexandria Henderson is a talented musical theater performer who just performed as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde – The Concert, produced by Showtunes Theatre Company, and last year had a critically acclaimed role in Dreamgirls at Village Theatre. In Act 2, Henderson gets to belt full out in an homage to dearly-departed Aretha Franklin.

The Chorus producers didn’t realize, when they booked Henderson, that her mother was Robin D. Henderson who had performed with them for the Randy Rainbow concert and had such a great reception for her participation! Apple, meet Tree.

The uncredited encore is Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” and its lyric “hear me roar” is another reference that adds to what the title says the concert is about. The concert is packed with power and the song choices are brief and powerful. Caldwell’s choice of music is providing more lyrical strength to the SWC singers and the harmonies are rich and powerful. It’s a fun event!

Also, the SWC continues its strong partnerships with significant non-profits whose missions are close to the women’s hearts. For this concert, the focus was on Lambert House and the executive director was able to give a moving speech about the power of connection for these LGBTQ teens who are in such need of finding people “just like themselves” and even saving lives.

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