VOX Fem­ina makes di­ver­sity sing

> BY ALEXAN­DER VARTY

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Al­though VOX Fem­ina is a women’s choir, its as­pi­ra­tions ex­tend to more than 51 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. “Through mu­sic, we aim to cre­ate a world that af­firms the worth and dig­nity of ev­ery per­son” is the credo that the Los An­ge­les– based en­sem­ble proudly em­braces, and if there’s a sin­gle word that best de­fines the group, it’s di­ver­sity.

“We ini­tially had the words ‘les­bian, bi­sex­ual, and het­ero­sex­ual women’ in our mis­sion state­ment, serv­ing those par­tic­u­lar pop­u­la­tions,” VOX Fem­ina’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Iris Levine, ex­plains, speak­ing to the Straight from her Cal­i­for­nia State Polytech­nic Univer­sity of­fice in Pomona. “When we started, we wanted to make sure it was a safe space for women of any sex­ual pref­er­ence. As things evolved, we re­al­ized that some of the ar­eas that we were delv­ing into were reper­toire, con­nect­ing with in­ter­na­tional cho­ruses, con­nect­ing across cross­cul­tural lines. And with the di­ver­sity of Los An­ge­les it­self, we quickly re­al­ized that it was re­ally about af­firm­ing the worth and dig­nity of ev­ery per­son. So that’s where it came from.

“We have no idea who in our group is les­bian or bi­sex­ual,” Levine con­tin­ues. “But if you want to be with us be­cause of the won­der­ful things that we do both mu­si­cally and so­cially, then please do come and see us and be a part of our world.”

Van­cou­ver au­di­ences will get to do just that this week­end when VOX Fem­ina joins Iceland’s Gard­abaer Women’s Choir, Ja­pan’s Frisches Ei, and our own Elek­tra Women’s Choir at the tri­en­nial Ta­pes­try In­ter­na­tional Cel­e­bra­tion of Women’s Choirs. By pulling songs from VOX Fem­ina’s re­cent trib­ute to spring and its up­com­ing con­cert of mu­sic with folk roots, Levine plans to hon­our beauty in di­ver­sity, in terms of both the en­sem­ble’s makeup—its mem­bers range in age from 20 to 70—and its vast reper­toire.

One likely high­light will be “Scân­tei So­lare (So­lar Flares)”, by New York City com­poser Jonathan Pies­lak. “It’s about the com­bi­na­tion of what’s hap­pen­ing in the sky and on the ground as spring comes,” Levine ex­plains. “The snow melts away and you have does com­ing down to drink at crys­talline pools, and at night you have shoot­ing stars that are hap­pen­ing. So it’s pic­turesque, and you’d think it would be this lush thing, but it’s not. It’s very fast, it’s very rhyth­mic—and it’s in Ro­ma­nian.”

Levine is es­pe­cially look­ing for­ward to Ta­pes­try’s cul­mi­nat­ing Cel­e­bra­tion Con­cert, in which all four choirs will join forces.

“The piece that I’m bring­ing is called ‘One With the Wind’,” she says. “It’s a Na­tive Amer­i­can text, a Lakota text, writ­ten by a woman named Larissa Fasthorse, and the mu­sic is by a lo­cal Los An­ge­les com­poser, David O. This was a com­mis­sion of ours from a num­ber of years ago; it starts with an ini­tial soloist, and then fol­low­ing that is a trio of voices who re­spond to the soloist, then a small group of voices who re­spond to the soloist, and then a larger group.…the text re­flects one woman’s fight to sur­vive and be ac­cepted. And in Lakota tra­di­tion iden­tity is formed in re­la­tion­ship to oth­ers, so the re­la­tion­ship of this one woman to the trio is her re­la­tion­ship to her im­me­di­ate fam­ily, and then the small group is her dis­tant fam­ily, and the large group is her en­tire com­mu­nity. So the ba­sic premise of this is that no one voice stands alone, and that to­gether, we are stronger.

“It’s a great piece,” Levine adds. “I can’t wait.”

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