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Artemis Singers members reflect on their many years with the chorus
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-09-06

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Artemis Singers has had many members over the years, with some going back to the chorus's beginnings while others have joined the chorus more recently. Below, members reflect on their years with the chorus in the order in which they joined.

"When I moved to Chicago in 1982, I wanted to make friends whose politics might match mine," said Copia Webster. "As a radical feminist that meant the place for me to be was Artemis Singers. Since then, I have sung first soprano, first alto and occasionally second soprano. Over the years, I made friends in Artemis, came out in Artemis. I was outed to a few guys at work after singing on stage at Chicago's Pride Parade with Artemis. Now, Artemis is a place to make new friends."

"I moved to Chicago in 1984 from Philadelphia, and within the first month saw a notice in the Chicago Reader about a lesbian-feminist chorus accepting new members so I joined almost immediately," said Ruth Clark. "In the early years, I served as business manager for a year or so and became a board member for 10 years. Nowadays I serve as marketing lead, which includes authoring and executing direct mail and email campaigns, social media and more. I have taken a turn as artistic director for two concerts and have been music director for a handful of songs over the years. I usually sing second soprano. I was the stage director for Artemis's original musical comedy 'Wanting the Music: A Choral Musical of the Michigan Festival' this past January. It is an amazing and sometimes frustrating experience to be part of a self-directed chorus. Overall, it is a uniquely satisfying structure. It is extremely meaningful to me that we are fore-fronting women's work. As often as we can, we select work from lesbian artists and sing songs about women loving women. We sing of women's lives, trials and triumphs."

"I came in as the paid piano accompanist in 1984 and soon after I joined in on second alto parts, staging and movement and added other instruments to the mix, including percussion and alto saxophone," said Laurie Lee Moses. "Even when I left the group as regular accompanist, I was frequently invited back to perform on certain songs or for a given concert, so I stayed connected. I came back as accompanist/member about 10 years ago. I enjoy observing the sense of empowerment in the chorus members as they take on directing, artistic production roles, accompanying, soloing, writing and arranging. It is a good creative and collaborative outlet for me and really satisfying when I can use my musical training to offer guidance in arranging, approaches to understanding how a piece of music is constructed and performance practices in a variety of musical idioms. On top of that, there is a strong sense of community and connectedness that has been a deep support for me and my family through the years."

"I joined in 1988 to meet lesbians outside of a bar setting but took a long break after awhile," said Eileen Lynx. "I came back because I need to sing with like-minded sisters. I sing melody and am a happy second soprano. Being in Artemis Singers means singing songs of power with like-minded sisters, songs that speak to what it means to be a woman/lesbian in this world."

"I joined the chorus in January 1989, having just recovered from an appendectomy and a not entirely satisfactory experience as a volunteer with the Feminist Writers Guild," said Loraine Edwalds. "Having sung in choirs from grade school through college, I knew this was something I could do. My role in the chorus now is warm-up leader, director of some songs and second soprano. I am acting as co-artistic director of our next concert, on the theme RiseUp! That will be both a concert and a workshop led by Melanie Demore teaching both us and our audience how to use our voices to create positive change. I love this organization for the loving commitment to women, the artistic freedom I have been given and the incredible opportunities I have had because of her."

"I joined Artemis Singers in 1990, after many years of not practicing musicianship, to reclaim that aspect of my identity and exercise that creativity," said Midge Stocker. "Belonging as both consensus participant and leader, I have sung multiple voice parts; played piano notes, guitar, and French horn; directed songs; arranged music; coordinated choral arrangers and workshops and provided artistic and production direction. With my partner Diana Clegg, I co-chaired the 2010 Sister Singers Network Festival hosted by Artemis Singers. The opportunity to learn and do so many things—and to make music and community with the talented, motivated, loving women of Artemis Singers—enriches my life beyond measure."

"I joined Artemis Singers in 1991 because I knew I needed to join with other lesbians if I was ever to really have a fulfilling life," said Meta Hellman. "Until I turned 35, I had been living a very comfortable life as an out lesbian without a lesbian community but I was lonely and looking for a place to fit in. Since I had always enjoyed singing, I began looking for a lesbian chorus and Artemis fit the bill. My first job with the chorus was as timekeeper and I still do that today. In addition to being timekeeper, I have also served as music scheduler, librarian, production manager, attendance taker and president. I sing second alto and because of that I get to stand next to Diana Clegg, who is my dear friend and a very strong singer. I still depend on her to keep me on pitch. Joining this chorus was the most important action of my adult life because it allows me to be a part of a community of talented women. Being a part of Artemis has enabled me to stretch myself. I have been able to write, do spoken word, compose lyrics, sing, perform and take a leadership role. More importantly, I have made deep, lifetime friendships and found a chosen family."

"I have been singing in choirs for most of my life so when I moved to Chicago I was excited to find Artemis Singers," said Diana Clegg. "I joined in January 1993 and have been in many different roles since that time including as a board member. At the moment, aside from singing second alto, my primary role is as co-scheduler with Meta Hellman. It is hard to describe what being in Artemis Singers has meant to me over the years. It is so much more than singing and wonderful music. It is lesbian visibility, social justice activism, lifting up women's voices, supporting women artists, working collectively for common goals, taking risks, being a leader, and being there for each other—truly a family of friends."

"I joined Artemis Singers in 1993 because I love to sing and missed singing in a chorus as I did in high school," said Nicky Joice. "The added element of this being a lesbian-feminist chorus made it completely irresistible to check out. I like to sing first alto but started as a second soprano. I was vice president for about eight years, have been the head of the concert decoration committee, music selection coordinator, point person for the Artemis Singers phone messaging system, member of our Barbershop 'Queertette' and a new member coordinator. I also directed five songs. The fact that this is a self-directed chorus is a wonderful attribute and due to this we get a wide variety of directing styles and musical flavors because we vote on what music is selected, and I think that is absolutely fabulous. These are my best friends, my support system and a place where I feel more welcomed than anyplace else. It is integral to my life and I hope to remain for many years to come."

"I was utterly lost when I walked into the chorus in 2000," said Karen Mooney. "A complicated breakup had left me needing a new place to regain myself and music has always been my grounding. The first night as I left, a compassionate soul said, 'I hope to see you next week.' That comment made me realize I needed a community to go with my need to sing. I sing first soprano with the group. I am also a composer, conductor and current vice president. I also play guitar ( not that well ). The invitation to join voices in rising up beyond what we can be individually is the real reason I sing in a chorus. I have learned so many things by being in this chorus including how to be a friend, live my values with other voices, conduct, compose for second altos, when to blend and when to stand out, when to say yes ( and no ) and when to sit with someone when they are really hurt. I have learned it is important to laugh with friends, to sit in hospital waiting rooms, to claim my own voice, to say 'I am sorry' and 'I forgive you' and to mean them both."

"I got to know some of the members in other contexts who gave me insights into the Artemis Singers experience and after numerous invites to New Members' Night and a yearning to do performance art, I finally decided to find out for myself what was so compelling about Artemis Singers," said Sandy ( last name withheld ). "This was in 2011. I sing first alto and second soprano. I appreciate the opportunity to explore ( and try to maintain ) the higher notes. I have learned how important it is to trust the good intentions of my sisters regarding the chorus, to volunteer as often as I can, try new roles, expand my musical and performance horizons, appreciate the gifts each member brings and bring my best to each chorus endeavor."

"I was at a low point in my existence when I discovered Artemis Singers," said Allison Downing. "I needed more music and more lesbian community in my life so I Googled lesbian chorus in Chicago and Artemis came up. I told my only lesbian friend in Chicago about it. She agreed to go to a new member night with me in 2011, and six years later, we are both still active in the chorus. I sing second soprano and also play violin, guitar and percussion. When I first showed up, it was all I could do to sing. Over time I began to offer my instrumental ability in addition to singing. Then, little by little, I was encouraged to try things I had never tried, such as directing songs and arranging choral works. Most recently, I composed songs for Artemis' original musical, 'Wanting the Music: A Choral Musical of the Michigan Festival'. What I love the most is every week on Thursday night I get to hang out with 35 or so women, most of whom are lesbian, of all different ages, personalities, body types, hair styles, fashion senses, interests, family situations, senses of humor, ways of making a living, challenges and triumphs and be myself."

"I was interested in bringing new experiences into my life after I retired from teaching and have been a fan of Artemis Singers for years so I joined the group in August of 2013," said Mary Rapp. "I love music and singing and joining a lesbian-feminist chorus seemed just the thing for me and it was. I sing second soprano and have been a part of four concert production teams. I am usually part of the decorations team for concerts and have co-facilitated a workshop for the chorus with another member. Being part of the chorus is an important part of my social life, having developed some close friendships, fallen in love and am now the partner of an amazing chorus member. I have endless opportunities to join others at countless musical and social events. Being a member is also an opportunity to sing great songs that have been written or arranged by women and bring them to the public for entertainment and inspiration. I am so glad I get to do something I love every week ( sing with friends ) from the end of August through mid June."

"Being part of Artemis Singers brought me through the loss of my parents and into community," said Jeanne ( last name withheld ). "I had already been grieving over the death of my mother and then my father died. I was isolated and filled with the loneliness of losing loved ones and I needed to find community and that is when I discovered Artemis via the Sister Singers Network. This was in 2013. I can still remember the calming sense of emotional release I felt on my very first evening singing with Artemis. I sing first and second soprano as well as collect membership dues. When Artemis sings in unison, our vision, our breath and our hearts become synchronized. It is an amazing experience."


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