San Diego Women's Chorus Debuts 'Quiet No More'
Concert celebrates 50th anniversary of Stonewall
This weekend the San Diego Women’s Chorus (SDWC) presents "Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall." This San Diego premiere of the newly commissioned work will be presented at Lincoln High School Center for Performing Arts.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots or Uprising (depending on your perspective) in New York City.
“Stonewall was a kind of underground club where the LGBTQ plus population used to be able to go to dance,” explained Kathleen Hansen, SDWC artistic director. “At that time it was illegal to show any sort of same-sex affection or to cross-dress or to congregate. And so there was this underground club, it was actually run by the Mafia, but the police would raid it once in a while and arrest people and kind of rough people up and disperse them. Then one night in 1969 the crowd decided to fight back.”
The events of that night are now looked back on as a key spark in igniting the modern international LGBTQ movement.
“Quiet No More,” co-commissioned by the SDWC and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus and Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, tells the story of Stonewall and celebrates its legacy.
Adrian Heckinger is a soprano with the chorus. She said performing “Quiet No More” is “very moving on many levels and we are so thankful and grateful to be where we are now because of these people and what they did to fight for our rights.”
Fifty years ago is not that far in the past yet younger people may not be familiar with Stonewall. “Quiet No More” starts with the events leading up to people going into this club and then looks to the police raid and then it talks about what happened afterward. It concludes by saying the work is still not yet finished and it suggests that change has to start at home. You need to change what you can and never again be silent.
“It's so important that everyone who is interested in equal rights stands up and speaks about this and is passionate about this and realizes how close we are to taking steps back in some places,” Hansen said. “It's frightening and it's a real and it's affecting people's lives and putting this to music I think is a great way to reach people. It touches people's souls. Put anything to music and it makes it a little bit. More exhilarating or more meaningful.”
Hansen described SDWC as “a lesbian feminist identified chorus."
"It's been around for over 30 years and our mission in part is to inspire social action," she said. "Right now we've got about 100 members. We'll have about 85 on stage singing and that's grown from a small group of about a dozen women singing around a piano in our founder’s living room.”
“The Women's Chorus always has a purpose,” Heckinger added. “We're not just singing. We're really a sisterhood connected through song. In our mission statement, we say, ‘Come for the music and stay for the heart.’ And so really that's what people stay.”
Around the globe, music has always been an important component of activism. In the U.S. you can find protests songs urging for social change from the abolition movement to women's suffrage to civil rights and the anti-war movement.
“I think if you look back at all the important social movements they were surrounded by music,” Hansen said. “With civil rights, you think of ‘We Shall Overcome.’ One of the pieces that we'll be singing is the Beatles ‘Revolution.’ I think that it allows people to express things that they don't otherwise have a way to express. Sometimes we get angry and yell, and yelling doesn't always serve the right purpose. But if we can inspire people, if we can open people's hearts, if we can touch their souls through music then I think it's a way to humanize each other and really be able to understand a bit more of where other people are coming from.”
“Music touches people in their soul and we have a lot of people that come to the concerts that are moved to tears and they're caught off guard by that because it may be a piece that they didn't think would touch them in that way,” Heckinger stated. “And so it's always inspiring to see people come back and see us time and time again and new people come to the show and then come up to us afterwards and say how inspired they were.”
And there is a particular power in being part of a large ensemble.
“Over the last eight years we've grown to about 100 members,” Heckinger said. “Being part of a larger ensemble really gives you the capability to join with the voices next to you and pick up on the different melodies as opposed to singing a solo by yourself or singing in a smaller group. Both have their own nice experiences but when you're singing in a very large group, the feeling really touches you internally.”
For the program, this weekend, half of the show will use pre-existing music. Some will be from a song book called “The Justice Choir Songbook,” which was created with the idea of bringing people together in song to specifically discuss social movements. Then the second half of the concert will be the debut in San Diego of “Quiet No More.”
Hansen hopes the concert will help to fulfill SDWC’s stated mission that through musical expression, it can encourage women’s creativity, celebrate diversity and inspire social action.
“I hope that people will be appreciative of the history of Stonewall, appreciative of those who have stood up in the past, some have put in their lives on the line to bring about revolution, to bring about acceptance,” Hansen said. “I also hope that people will feel that they should stand up for each other. I hope that people will feel the need to take action that people will reach across to meet new people understand other people and to vote all of those things.”
The concert will be ASL-interpreted for deaf and hard of hearing patrons and the venue is ADA accessible.
Tickets: $30 for VIP seats that include reserved seating/best views and priority access (sold in advance only); general admission is $20 in advance, $25 at door; discounted is $18 in advance, $20 at door for youth (3-17), students, military, seniors, and disabled.
The concert starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday and at 4 p.m. on Sunday.