Artemis Singers perform works they love
Loraine Edwalds sings with the Artemis Singers during a rehearsal at the First Congregational Church of Forest Glen in Chicago. Edwalds wrote a poem that will be recited at the group's Jan. 19 concert in Skokie. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Artemis Singers concert
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19
Ethical Humanist Society, 7574 N. Lincoln Ave., Skokie
$10 in advance; $15 at the door
Updated: January 16, 2013 11:52AM
Artemis Singers, Chicago’s lesbian feminist chorus, which takes its name from the Greek goddess of the hunt, will present a highly individualized concert Jan. 19 in Skokie.
“As a chorus we are one thing,” said Loraine Edwalds, artistic director of the concert, “but there is a wider variety within the group than you might think.”
So back in September when the 23-voice ensemble resumed weekly rehearsals, Edwalds proposed that instead of a central theme for its winter concert, each individual could select a song that meant something to her. It could be about a milestone in life, such as falling in love, coming out as a lesbian or giving birth.
“Everyone was enthusiastic about the idea,” she said.
The choir has some stipulations about what it performs. The song must be written or arranged by a woman and must have a feminist or social justice theme, including world peace.
In fact, observing the first rule is less difficult than it seems. For example, the first number after intermission is “On the Street Where you Live,” from the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady” by Lerner and Loewe, in an arrangement by Teena Chin.
Still, most of the 20 songs and spoken word pieces may be new to the audience and expose them to fresh genres and ideas. Edwalds herself wrote a poem, “Wonderland,” which she will recite as part of the program, and she will conduct the opening number “Something About the Women” by singer-songwriter Holly Near, a much-recorded feminist and social activist.
Some numbers are a cappella, others have piano accompaniment. The final piece, “Gamba Adisa” by American choral conductor and composer Joan Szymko, with a text by poet Audre Lorde, was commissioned by the Cincinnati Women’s Chorus and will be accompanied by percussion.
The members of Artemis range in age from their 20s to their 60s, explained Midge Stocker, who has been in the choir for 23 years. “Only four members have been in longer than I have,” she said, with obvious satisfaction.
Membership is open to all women, lesbian or not, and no audition is required, only a commitment to attend weekly Thursday night rehearsals at First Congregational Church of Forest Glen in Chicago.
Conducting duties are shared among those who feel able to do so. “Our organizational model is very different from the traditional chorus,” Stocker said. “We are self-directed and discuss everything — from what we are going to sing to where we are going to breathe in a phrase.”
No musical background is necessary, she continued. “Some of us read music, others learn the songs by ear. This is as much about community building as singing,” she added.
Artemis President Meta Hellman joined the group in the 1990-91 season. “I’d say my duties are fundraising, keeping up spirits, and making sure the atmosphere is fun and friendly,” she said.
For Hellman the choir fills an important need. “I call it my part-time job,” she said, laughing, and then added, “It is part of the fabric of my life — my life would be much emptier without it.”
Artemis was established in June 1979, but the chorus was not formally introduced until December 1980 at the second annual Chicago Gay/Lesbian Community Band and Windy City Gay Chorus concert.
“The climate has changed so much in the years since Artemis was founded,” Hellman declared. “At that time many who came out were rejected by their families. The women in the choir were often the only family they had.”