To celebrate Artemis Singer's 40th anniversary, Gerber/Hart Library and Archives hosted a Sept. 26 virtual panel discussion on the past, present and future of the chorus.
Artemis Singers holds the distinction of being the first lesbian feminist chorus in the United States. Since its founding, the chorus has exclusively performed music written or arranged by women. The chorus made its debut performance at the December 1980 second annual Chicago Gay/Lesbian Community Band and Windy City Gay Chorus concert, "Don We Now ... II" and has performed at hundreds of venues since that time.
Artemis Singers President Diana L. Clegg moderated the event. Clegg also served as the board treasurer and secretary and co-chaired the 2010 Sister Singers Network National Choral Festival at Loyola University Chicago.
Panelists included Former Artemis Singers Winter Solstice and Samhain Artistic Director Ruth Clark; Former Artemis Singers President and current time-keeper, music scheduler and music librarian Meta Hellman; and Artemis Singers Visibility and Diversity Committee Member Elise Dunham.
Gerber/Hart Communications and Programming Coordinator and panel host Jen Dentel welcomed the approximately 75 people in attendance and played a slideshow featuring event fliers, the chorus performing over the years and other images from the organization's archives. Dentel told participants that Gerber/Hart holds the Artemis Singers archives.
Clark spoke about the early days of the chorus and how they first met in a church basement and asked longtime member Vada Woods to speak about her experiences with the chorus. Clark mentioned that Artemis Singers first solo concert was held at the now-defunct lesbian feminist music venue Mountain Moving Coffeehouse. Kathy Munzer read from some of the Mountain Moving fliers promoting Artemis Singers she has in her archives.
Hellman said that what makes Artemis Singer unique and enduring is "we really like women." She added that it was so great for her to see so many lesbians in one room during her first rehearsals with the chorus.
Dunham spoke about what makes Artemis Singers a community. She said that although she's only been a member for one year it was apparent right away that everyone supports each other in myriads of ways. Dunham added that going to the Camp Artemis annual retreat made this even more apparent to her.
Clegg spoke about the choral music they have sung over the years and how they found pieces written by women to perform. She said it was important for them to "uncover those hidden gems" and share them with the world. Clegg added that Artemis Singers was an important part of the Illinois marriage equality fight including performing at the bill signing ceremony. She also spoke about the chorus' other social justice outreach efforts.
Dunham said that due to the pandemic, many of the plans for 2020 had to be postponed or cancelled. She added that they have been meeting over Zoom and this has been an opportunity for them to get to know each other better. Dunham said the Zoom meetings have given them the chance to sing together in new ways, the time and ability to work on special projects as well as learn new technical skills.
As for the future, Dunham said it includes "being actively anti-racist before they can be inclusive" at Artemis Singers. She added that they will be doing a virtual concert next year. Details TBA.
The event also featured additional members speaking about their experiences with the chorus and a video of them singing.
Artemis Singers leadership is asking its supporters to donate to blacklesbianarchives.wixsite.com/info.
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