It is my great pleasure to introduce myself as the Eastern Division SSAA & Women’s Choir Repertoire and Resources Chair. In this role I hope to provide programming ideas, connect conductors, composers, and singers and facilitate discussion about our various challenges and triumphs. Today we are in a position to offer our singers an incredible variety of choral literature. With a range of texts, styles, and subject matters to reflect both our historical treasures and contemporary thought, there is limitless potential for our choirs to thrive.
My experience has lead me to believe that programming for SSAA & women’s choirs is strongly linked to the group’s identity, not exclusively informed by gender. Diversity within the group, including culture, race, sexual orientation, age, all contribute to the esprit de corps. New or historically significant works, diverse languages, range of styles, level of challenge, all of these things come into play as we design a custom fit experience for both singers and audience.
As you’re programming this year, you might consider thematic concerts that seek to create a narrative, or have a through line connecting various musical viewpoints. Along this line, you might ask yourself, “what is it that matters to my singers?” and “what is it that matters to me?”. Might the program benefit from your singers’ input, gaining more buy-in and ownership on their part? What message are we sending by the music we select? Whom are we attracting or excluding from the ensemble, based on the repertoire? I asked my college choir to help me write a mission statement for the group this year to help define, or redefine what we represent. This informed repertoire choices that complemented and strengthened the ensemble’s identity.
While weighing all these many factors, I assert that there is one, overriding principle we are charged with: to program good music. Each piece we consider must live up to this standard, regardless of thematic relevance or fashionability. Our singers deserve it. This doesn’t mean excluding fun, whimsical, light or popular music; on the contrary! A full musical experience should embrace the whole spectrum of our human experience. In my opinion, SSAA & women’s choirs could be performing more clever, witty music. My Wellesley singers really appreciated Elizabeth Alexander’s “Why I Pity the Woman Who Never Spills” and Carol Barnett’s “Song of Perfect Propriety.”
I hope to engage with you on these topics and more. Please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts or questions you may have, so we can start and maintain a conversation of mutual support in our particular field of practice.
Below, please find some resources that I have found useful in programming for and running an SSAA or women’s chorus. This is just a start, so please check back as we add more to the list.
SSAA & Women’s Choir Repertoire Resources
About the Chairperson
Lisa Graham is the Evelyn Barry Director of Choral Programs and Lecturer at Wellesley College, where she conducts the Wellesley College Choir, Chamber Singers, and Choral Scholars, in addition to teaching academic courses in the Music Department. Under her direction, the Wellesley College Choirs have toured internationally in Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Portugal and South Korea, and the Baltics in addition to domestic tours annually. In 2010, the Choir was chosen to perform at the American Choral Director’s Regional Convention in Philadelphia and appeared again last year as part of the ACDA Eastern Division conference in Boston. Both the Chamber Singers and the Choir are featured in the motion picture, Mona Lisa Smile.
In addition, Dr. Graham is Music Director of the Metropolitan Chorale. Under her fourteen years of leadership, the Chorale’s membership has grown in size to 100 members who hail from communities throughout the Greater Boston area. Dr. Graham has shaped the Chorale’s programming to include contemporary, American, and lesser- known works, alongside the masterworks of the repertory. She has enhanced the reputation and reach of the Chorale through collaborations with acclaimed vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as established composers of our day. In a review of her appearance conducting the Metropolitan Chorale and the Boston Pops, Broadway World praised Dr. Graham as “a spellbinding maestro, balletic in her direction … a great connection with her performers on stage.” This season will mark her 6th tour with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops in the New England area.
Active in the Boston musical scene, has been frequent conductor with Handel and Haydn Society, directing their Holiday Sing concert for several seasons and enjoying a ten-year history of conducting their Young Women’s Chorus. In addition to her work with Boston Pops, she prepared members of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus for Charles Dutoit’s BSO performance of Holst’s The Planets. Additionally, she is a founding member and former President of the National Collegiate Choral Conductor’s Organization, has served as a Choir Repertoire and Standards Chair for the Massachusetts American Choral Director’s Association, and is an active guest conductor, clinician, and festival adjudicator. She holds a Master’s and DMA degrees from the University of Southern California and completed her undergraduate work at Sonoma State University.