SheWho strives to perform a repertoire that affirms women, promotes justice, and expresses our diverse spirit. The pieces we choose to perform challenge us to improve musically and highlight our individual skills both vocally and in music composition. Giving voice to women composers, song writers, and arrangers has always been a top priority of our singing community, for we understand that women have been excluded from or under-represented in every part of musical development.
We find our music in diverse places. We are part of SisterSingers, a cooperative web of feminist choruses and ensembles, composers, arrangers, and individual singers. Some our repertoire comes from that rich history of women’s and lesbian choruses and vocal groups. Members of Sister Singers discuss the music their communities are using on their listserve, and SheWho sometimes find new songs from that important resource, such as “Faith Comes Out,” written by Nancy Collins and Nancy Vedder-Shults of WomonSong, the feminist choir in Madison, WI.
But when SheWho formed, many members had been part of women’s choruses, and felt frustrated that a handful of pieces seemed to circulate without much new material available. Musical Director Karen Escovitz wanted this group to be a “repertoire lab,” in which new music, or radically new arrangements, could be developed and then shared with the wider community. Some SheWho members have written completely new songs, including, from their first CD, “SheWho” (composed by Karen from a text by Judy Grahn), “Shadow/Light” (composed by Juliet Spitzer from a text by Rumi), and “Harmony” (composed by Juliet Spitzer).
SheWho also wanted music that spoke to current events or that expressed ideas the group felt needed to be given voice. As a community, the women of SheWho believe that if we’re going to have the platform of public performance, we need to choose what we say carefully and then we need to say it with power, beauty, and grace. So often we go looking for songs to address what needs to be said. Usually these are not even remotely arranged for women’s choral music, so once we find a song, we must first figure out if we can adapt it to our voices and our vision.
The group is currently performing their original arrangement of Roy Zimmerman’s “Defenders of Marriage.” They discovered Roy’s music on YouTube, and fell in love with the message, music, and sharp humor of this song. With Roy’s happy permission, Karen created an arrangement of the piece that transformed the song from a single voice/guitar folk song to a multi-part acapella piece.
Other pieces that the group has adapted include “Who Stands for Life?” and “I Come from Women,” which were both written for single voice/musical accompanient, and “Gulf War Song,” which was written and performed for male voices by the Canadian group Moxy Fruvous.
To honor our goal of being a repertoire lab, these arrangements are available to the community. Guidelines for use and cost vary based on requirements of the original composers, but in general we follow Alix Dobkin’s model for selling arrangements—rather than paying us a fee, we ask that you donate to a local group whose mission is related to the song’s statement or purpose. For a list of available arrangements, use our “Contact Us” form via the link at the top of the page.