Love is in the air
The Brattleboro Women’s Chorus in song.

Love is in the air

Brattleboro Women’s Chorus returns for a concert celebrating love and music

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Women's Chorus will present their 22nd annual fall concert, “Singing in the Light of Love,” on Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m. at the First Baptist Church on Main Street.

More than 80 women directed by Becky Graber will perform songs of love and songs about music. Cathy Martin will accompany on piano, and the local Ukulele Orchestra led by Lisa McCormick will join on several songs.

Other selections, from a variety of genres, include a gospel medley of Rollo Dilworth's arrangement of the spiritual Shine on Me paired with Russell Robinson's composition, Standing in the Light of Love; Plovi Barko from Croatia; Amovolovolo from South Africa; This Ancient Love by Carolyn McDade; Kinder, as created and sung by the group Copper Wimmin; and the Wailin' Jennys' version of Storm Comin'.

“These are songs all about two things,” Graber says. “The first is love and the second is music. The intermingling of these two themes make up our fall concert.”

Graber is “really inspired” by the songs she has chosen to perform, particularly two of them, Got to Love and When I Hear Music, both written by Libby Roderick.

An internationally acclaimed singer/songwriter (as well as poet, activist, teacher, and lifelong Alaskan), Roderick is one of 225 world citizens - including the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Winona LaDuke, and Ursula K. Le Guin - whose writing was included in a book called Prayers for a Thousand Years: Inspiration from Leaders and Visionaries Around the World.

“I realize I am a bit late in the game appreciating this fine artist, whose songs have often been sung by choruses in our area,” adds Graber. The Hallowell Singers and the Guilford Church Choir, for instance, perform Roderick's stirring song, How Could Anyone Tell You You Were Anything Less Than Beautiful.

“Roderick's Got to Love has remarkable verses on how to live in these times,” Graber says. “That song led me to recall another song we already have performed by Libby, When I Hear Music. The lyrics of this great song haunt me:

'Women make music,

Women make love,

Women makes babies,

Women make a vision of a peaceful world.'”

Ukuleles join the party

The chorus will perform Got to Love accompanied by McCormick's ukulele orchestra.

“Lisa joined us for our last concert at the Latchis Theatre in the spring and we are glad to have her back with her 23 Ukulele players, 11 from our chorus and 12 from the community,” Graber says. “All are students of McCormick's ukulele classes. Now that this season's classes are closing, Lisa is offering her players the chance to perform two songs with us, Got to Love and a surprise second number.”

How does Graber discover the songs she chooses to perform?

She confesses that she often just stumbles upon them. “When I am planning a concert I really don't know what I am looking for,” she says. “I just go searching with no particular agenda in mind. People sometimes suggest songs to me, but that wasn't the case with Got to Love.

For this concert I went on the internet and googled songs about love and music. I start with around 20 selections and whittle them down to around the 11 that we end up doing in these concerts, after considering issues of difficulty and variety. Then some songs just call out to me. I try to balance a range of songs so that everyone has something that appeals to them.”

Graber believes that, in its essence, the Brattleboro Women's Chorus is all about the songs and the women who sing them.

“These are women from all walks of life and all ages,” she says. “We now have a singer with us who is only 12 years old.”

Graber points out that the women in her chorus learn their music differently from those in other choruses in the area.

“Here, we primarily learn by listening, with the assistance of some written texts and recordings,” Graber says. “This way everyone has memorized all the songs. I like that because it encourages members to take in the songs in a deep way.”

After performing last spring at the Latchis, for these concerts the Brattleboro Women's Chorus is returning to First Baptist Church.

“In the past, all of our concerts have taken place at the church until it changed ownership last year,” Graber says. “Right after that, it was difficult to figure out what was going to happen to the space there, so we moved to the Latchis, which was great. But now we are back.

“The Baptist Church seems to be open for business again. The folks who now own the church also own the Stone Church up the street, and they plan to rename the Baptist Church the Brick Church. It's a fine venue for our chorus to perform. Of course, the new concert hall at Brattleboro Music Center is really a wonderful place to perform, but I'm afraid that it is too small for what we do.”

Loyal following

Graber contends that the audience for Brattleboro Women's Chorus is a loyal bunch, made up of lots of friends and family of the singers, but also of others who are attracted to the special kind of music the chorus performs.

“Some come because they are called by the theme of the performance,” she says. “I hope there are new people coming to every concert. Sometimes folks come once, like it, and end up coming regularly. I have people I don't know at all come up to me and exclaim that they always come to the concerts. It's a nice feeling.”

One devoted member of the chorus, Ann Braden, won't be part of this upcoming concert, because she is hosting a postcard-making session for the Local Love Brigade that afternoon at 118 Elliot Street from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

“The postcard-making session will end in time for participants to go to our performance,” Graber says. “I think what the Love Brigade is doing is a nice tie-in to our themes in this concert.”

Braden describes the event on the Local Love Brigade-Vermont facebook page:

“We gather with others and make love postcards to send to victims of hate. We'll need a bunch of people to help address the postcards that have been made but don't have addresses yet. So, even if you're the least artistic person on earth, there's still a way to help! (Feel free to invite others.)”

Last fall, the Brattleboro Women's Chorus released its latest CD, A Garden of Our Own. That recording represents favorite songs from concerts over the past 20 years and the support of many local heroes.

It was mixed and mastered by sound technician Julian McBrowne, a painting by Donald Saaf graces the outer cover, and photos of the chorus by Jeff Woodward enhance the inside. Finally, the CD features many local musicians, with instrumental tracks by Lisa McCormick, Anna Patton, Alki Steriopoulos, Susan Dedell, Cathy Martin, and Peter Siegel.

The CD will be for sale for $15 at the concerts and at Everyone's Books in Brattleboro.

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