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.

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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 ReagonYsaye Maria Barnwell and Linda Tillery on African-American choral and vocal traditions.

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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, Rachel Kramer, joined us our accompanist and remained in that position for almost two decades.

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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 RagoYsaye Maria BarnwellRachel 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 LarsenJennifer StasackYsaye Maria Barnwell, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. MUSE has also collaborated with J. David MooreWilli ZwozdeskyJacqueline 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.

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MUSE Cincinnati's Women's Choir

P.O. Box 23292
Cincinnati, OH 45223
T: 513.221.1118

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