History

Complete Listing of MUSE Performances: 1984-Present

Download the PDF of the complete listing of MUSE’s runouts and concerts over the last 29+ years. You’ll see we sing in colleges, schools, churches, prisons, temples, hospices, street events, conferences and workshops. We perform in support of myriad causes promoting peace, equality and justice. We seek out opportunities to sing for our wonderfully diverse local community and we have also traveled and performed across the US, in Canada, Europe and Latin America. Check it out.

The First Decade 1984 -1994

In 1984, Catherine Roma, a new doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music held the first MUSE auditions. Recently relocated from her native Philadelphia where she founded the Anna Crusis Women's Choir in 1975, Roma hoped to establish another women's choir in Cincinnati while she completed her graduate studies in choral conducting.

From these auditions, twenty-some women emerged who shared a vision of a women's choir, a vision of a choral community that reflected their wish for the world, a place where differences would be celebrated and where women of many colors, ages, cultures, and lifestyles would come together in harmony.

Within six weeks of the first rehearsal, MUSE made her debut on International Women's Day, 1984. Twenty-four women performed three songs at the Cement Mixers Union Hall in the Walnut Hills area of Cincinnati. From the first, MUSE chose repertoire that reflected the lives of women and fit women's voices. MUSE commissioned choral works by women composers and crafted choral arrangements from contemporary women's movement singer-songwriters. The choir also sang many songs from the folk, peace and social justice traditions, and searched for the silenced voices of women in the world of classical music.

MUSE also addressed another overlooked audience group by appointing Ruth Rowan as signer for the hearing-impaired in 1985; Ms. Rowan's appearance continues to be standard performance practice for MUSE.

MUSE quickly established a reputation for memorable, moving performances. Besides an annual spring concert and many local run-out concerts, MUSE began to travel. Her first travels included an appearance at the 2nd National Sister Singers Festival in 1985 in Madison, WI, a tour to Champaign-Urbana and Chicago, IL in 1986, and a very exciting performance at GALA Festival III in Seattle in July, 1989. In June 1990, MUSE traveled to Chicago, singing in Orchestra Hall with the Windy City Gay Choir. In January 1993, MUSE joined the Ohio Unity Choir for appearances at Marysville Prison and the Franklin Pre-Release Facility, and in the summer of 1993, MUSE hosted the 7th Sister Singers Festival, expanding its schedule to 4 days to include workshops with guest artists for the first time.

Coming Into Our Voice, MUSE's first CD, was released at the end of 1992, and featured 14 selections, including works by Bernice Johnson Reagon, Holly Near and Connie Kaldor.

Performances reflected the choir's growing numbers and reputation for giving voice to unknown artists and putting some of the better known in a different light!

The Second Decade-1994-2004

MUSE began her second decade by joining five other choirs nationwide in the New Spirituals Project, which featured new works by women composers in the African-American and Afro-Caribbean tradition. The New Spirituals Project concerts began a long-running collaboration with Linda Tillery, well known vocalist and African-American folklorist from the San Francisco Bay Area. Each year, Linda returns to share the stage with MUSE in these popular concerts.

In this decade, MUSE also began inviting well-known musicians to work with the choir, in an effort both to expand the choral sound and to learn about women making music in diverse communities within the United States and throughout the world.

Singers had the opportunity to work with Ethel Raim, ethnomusicologist and founder of The Pennywhistlers, on Balkan singing; with Rhiannon, jazz vocalist and member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra, on jazz styling and improvisation; with Kay Gardner on her classical compositions such as the oratorio Ouruboros; and with Holly Near on music from the progressive and women's movements. MUSE also worked intensely with Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ysaye Maria Barnwell and Linda Tillery on African-American choral and vocal traditions.

As demand for appearances and a broader repertoire increased, so did the choir, which grew to 48 voices by 1994. In 1995, MUSE named Lois Shegog as assistant conductor; in that same year our current accompanist, Rachel Kramer, joined us.

After the original four New Spirituals Project Concerts were completed in 1997, MUSE began to hold her own New Spirituals Concerts each year. New multi-part choral works were commissioned and premiered in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Composers included Jacqueline Rago, Ysaye Maria Barnwell, Rachel Bagby and Bernice Johnson Reagon.

The choir made its international debut in November 1997, participating in the "Raise Your Banners" song festival in Sheffield, England. MUSE's performance at the 2000 GALA festival in San Jose, California received yet another rousing ovation.

Two more CDs were produced during this decade: Sing to the Universe Who We Are in 1998, featuring the title track "We Are" by Ysaye Marie Barnwell, and MUSE Live! in 2002 that includes "Her Song Rises," a commissioned work with lyrics by Adela Karliner and Ruth Sohn and music by Jennifer Stasack.

MUSE marked the end of its second decade with a choir of 60 members and many newly commissioned choral works for women's voices from such world class composers as Libby Larsen, Jennifer Stasack, Ysaye Maria Barnwell, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. MUSE has also collaborated with J. David Moore, Willi Zwozdesky, Jacqueline Hairston, and others, in generating over 50 original choral arrangements. Many of these pieces are now published and have become standard works in women's choral repertoire.

Cincinnati audiences now anticipate a full schedule of MUSE performances, beginning with the fall concert in November, a spring concert in May, and a New Spirituals Concert every other winter. In addition, MUSE performs at Vigil against Domestic Violence, Christ Church's annual services for AIDS patients, as well as special events consistent with our mission. In September 2003, MUSE sang at a presentation sponsored by opponents of the death penalty in Ohio; Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, was in the audience. MUSE also performed at Wilmington College's annual Westheimer Peace Seminar, singing Song of the Exile, set to a text by poet Alicia Partnoy, who was a conference participant.

The Third Decade - 2004-2013

MUSE began her third decade by traveling to Montreal in July 2004 for the GALA VII International Choral Festival. MUSE performed the world premieres of “Liberty or Death Suite” by Bernice Johnson Reagon and “Mayim Maya” by Daniel Galay. Based on the life of Harriet Tubman, Dr. Reagon's suite was commissioned in honor of the opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and MUSE's 10th New Spirituals Concert. Galay's piece juxtaposes an Israeli and an Arab folksong with klezmer clarinet and percussion accompaniment.

Growing Into Our Roots, our third produced recording, was released in May 2005, featuring several of MUSE's latest commissioned pieces and many other favorites, including “'Swonderful,” “Waulking Songs,” and also “Emma” by Therese Edell. For our 2006 Spring Concert, we shared the stage with Holly Near and peace activist, Cindy Sheehan in a performance that brought major attention to MUSE’s emphasis on peace and our opposition to the Iraq War.

Our 25th Anniversary Season saw our 12th New Spirituals in April 2008 where we teamed up with the Central State University Chorus, Linda Tillery and Rosephane Powell and sang Powell’s newly commissioned work, “Hope Come True.” Our 25th Anniversary Spring Concert in June 2008 brought together many alumnae and several specially commissioned choral works. There were two sold out performances at Greaves Concert Hall at Northern Kentucky University. We rounded out our 25 season by traveling to Miami to perform at GALA VIII.

In March 2009, MUSE traveled to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic where we performed in Justica Global’s international conference, “Art y Revolution.” In January 2010, we went to Marysville, Ohio to perform for the incarcerated women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. We also recorded and released our fourth CD: We Who Make Our Meaning Clear. In December of 2010, we joined with the Umoja Men’s Chorus at the Warren Correctional Institution to record several pieces with them for their upcoming CD: Extend a Hand.

The years 2011-2012 were very significant for MUSE. We teamed up with Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQ youth performance group from Pittsburgh, for our 28th Annual Spring Concert, "Stand Together Make It Better” and in our 29th season, we were deeply involved with the 7th World Choir Games [WCG] that came to Cincinnati in July 2012. Both our fall and spring concerts for 2011-2012 season emphasized international repertoire and highlighted the coming of the Games. In the WCG competition, MUSE won a gold medal in the top “Champions” category for women’s choirs. Immediately after the competition, MUSE flew off the Denver to participate in GALA IX where we performed a specially featured hour-long “Coffee Concert.”

Our 30th season started with the announcement that our founding director, Catherine Roma, would retire at the end of 2013. The choir began in intensive nation-wide search for a new artistic director and in April, Rhonda Juliano, assistant conductor of the Seattle Women’s Chorus, accepted the position and began her transition to Cincinnati.

In honor of the 30the season, MUSE commissioned several original choral works, including those by Abbie Betinis, Elizabeth Edwards, Eric Lane Barnes, Rosephayne Powell, J. David Moore and Elizabeth Haskins. The choir produced three major concerts: a fall concert with guest artist Melanie DeMore; an International Women’s Day concert with two other women’s choruses, Walnut Hills HS Women’s Choir and the Grand Rapids [MI] Women’s Chorus; and our 30th Spring Concert which included nearly 50 MUSE alumnae who traveled from all over the country to celebrate and sing in several pieces in the concert. The 30th anniversary concert was performed to two packed and emotional houses at the new Corbett Theater for the Performing Arts in downtown Cincinnati where Catherine Roma conducted her final MUSE concert.

Looking Forward: Fourth Decade

MUSE begins her fourth decade with a strong and renewed commitment to musical excellence and social change and welcomes our new artistic director, Rhonda Juliano. Today, MUSE performs in about 30 venues each season and has grown to sixty singers with an administrative corps of over a dozen. Now highly regarded nationally as well as in the greater Cincinnati area, MUSE continues to be guided by her original vision of creating a choral community of feminist women of varied ages, races, and ethnicities with a range of musical abilities, political interests, and life experiences -- women loving women, united in song.

Contributors to MUSE history: Anne Arenstein, Angie Denov, Deb Meem, Diana Porter, Catherine Roma, Dorothy Smith

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