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womansong: purveyors of song, service, inspiration and acceptance
by kathy robinson

The two years I’ve been a member of Womansong has been a time of tremendous growth for me.

When Julie Parker asked me to write an article about the group, I agreed immediately thinking, “This will be a piece of cake, I could write a book about Womansong.” What I came to realize is that no one person could write this piece.

So, here is our story, told from many voices.

Womansong had humble but inspired beginnings. Fifteen years ago, Linda Metzner—composer, poet, teacher, and mom—had the idea of starting a women’s chorus. When Linda gets inspired with a creative idea, she describes a sort of vibration or vision that resonates within her and drives her forward. When she got this sensation about Womansong, she told some of her friends that she was thinking of starting a women’s chorus in a few months. Their response was, “How about in a few days?”

They met in Linda’s rondette until they outgrew it and moved across the street to the Unitarian Universalist church, where we still rehearse. Early on, Womansong earned some money for singing at events. The chorus decided to use any extra money they had above expenses to assist women in transition. The fund they created, the New Start Fund, still exists and contributes $2000 per year to women in need.

Linda feels that an important role for Womansong is offering its members a fun way to give back to the community. In addition to the New Start Fund, Womansong also plays many benefits for various community service organizations. Cheryl Orengo, a health educator and member of Womansong for 15 years, says that she joined when her daughters were little girls. “They came with me to rehearsals and learned most of our songs. They accompanied me when we sang informally for Helpmate, the rape crisis center and for other social causes. Now my daughters are 19 and 22 years old. They are true activists and both plan to serve and advocate for people and the environment.”

Linda Metzner believes that Womansong serves as a social and creative outlet and helps recharge the batteries of women who work daily in service jobs. This was a universal feeling as I interviewed people for this article. It seems that no matter how tired, depressed, or exhausted women feel coming to rehearsal, all of us leave feeling better and more energetic.

Winnie Barrett, a retired therapist and member of Womansong for seven years tells this story, “Once I arrived at rehearsal in tears, despairing over a crisis with my aging parents. I was completely undone, and unable to sing. I spent the entire two hours crying uncontrollably. The rehearsal went on of course, but expressions of compassion and love came from so many. Gentle hugs and shoulders were offered; I’ll never forget the generosity of spirit that was given that evening.”

Va Boyle, a psychologist and member of Womansong for 6 years, says that the thing that impresses her most about the group is that women will often come into the group shy and quiet and change into women that sing, dance, drum, act, or write songs. I know that this is true because within six months of joining I was up on a stage singing, reciting poetry, drumming, and acting. I had never done any of those things before.

Holly Simms, an award-winning author, says that she moved to Asheville after going through some very difficult times and “losing her voice”. Holly says, “I had stopped singing and listening to music. This reflected my sadness because music had always been a sort of salvation to me. After joining Womansong I just moved my lips to the music for the first six months; I had no confidence in my voice. I sang at home to the rehearsal tapes and eventually I found my voice again. I’ve been with the group for five years now and I sing with confidence and joy.”

Womansong has worked some magic on a larger scale as well. Lisa Sturz, world-renowned puppeteer, relates, “We were scheduled to do a concert in Athens, Georgia in September 2001. Then 911 happened. The woman who was to host the group lost her daughter, her son-in-law, and two grandchildren in one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center. She called and cancelled the performance. Days later the woman called back saying she realized that she needed us to come more than ever. We arrived for a potluck dinner at her home the day after she returned from the funerals in Boston. Though all of our emotions were raw, we offered what comfort we could to her and her husband. That night at the performance, we sang a song called ‘How Can I Keep From Singing’. As it turned out, this was one of their favorite songs and had been sung at all four funerals. Since the funerals had been in Boston, our concert turned into a community service for their friends in Athens. We stood up there singing and crying and passing a box of tissues. At least one of us managed to keep singing at all times. The audience joined in with tears and hope. I am truly in awe of the transforming power of music to reach into those little nooks and crannies of our soul. I will never be the same.”

Debbie Nordeen is a singer, actress, music instructor, and the director of Womansong for the last 8 years. She says, “I feel so happy to be part of this wonderful village of women, this healing and invigorating experience of song and community called Womansong. The experience can be summed up in one word, Love. Love is acceptance, caring, concern, joy expressed and unity in the midst of diversity. We are women of all ages, sizes, sexual preferences; we are souls in female bodies. After a concert, one woman stated, ‘you don’t even have to sing about it, all we have to do is see you, and we feel the love and acceptance you have for each other within your diversity.’ Song is the soul’s expression through the instrument of body, fueled by heart, breath, and spirit. Striving for that perfect harmony of sound, we strive first for the harmony of community. Community music is the joy of my life.”

Sue Ford, our drumming, singing, African dancing and song writing assistant director, started writing songs after joining Womansong. The words to two of her songs are included at the end of this piece. Both have been arranged for the chorus with help from Debbie Nordeen.

Womansong usually has between 30 and 40 active members these days. Come to a concert, listen to our CDs, join us, you’ll be amazed. Womansong will be singing at 1pm on Oct. 4th in City/County Plaza for The Recovery Rally a daylong event (12-7pm) sponsored by Voices for Recovery. We'll also be singing Sunday, October 5th at Western North Carolina Woman's monthly potluck gathering at the Enka Campus of AB Tech.

On December 5th we are opening for Peggy Seeger in the Helpmate Anniversary Benefit concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church on the corner of Charlotte Street and Edwin in Asheville. Look for advertising or check our website for the time of the concert. Our website is www.womansong.org.

Kathy Robinson practices medicine and does a lot of other things in Asheville, NC.
[ RubberDuckyGlass@aol.com; 828-250-0065 ]

 

GIVING BIRTH

I am one with all the women giving birth to all creation
Tapping in and drawing forth from all of life’s pulsation
Waters breaking, bellies clutching
Step aside and let it happen….
Out of pain, the woman rises
Peaceful world, she realizes
Strength to endure, love to allow
Accept all that’s present in the here and now…..
Giving Birth… Giving blood…. Giving Life…
This babe of my creation, I will hold to breast to nurse
Giving food made from my body, protected universe
Let it come, then step aside vessel of life, your heart’s open wide…
Out of pain, the woman rises
Peaceful world, she realizes
Strength to endure, love to allow
Accept all that’s present in the here and now…
Giving Birth… Giving Blood… Giving Life…
I am one with all the women giving birth to all creation

Sue Roberts Ford

HEAL ME

Heal me, I am listening.
Heal me, I have heard.
I have felt your timeless presence
in the Silence, in the Knowing.
I am with you in my laughter,
in my crying, in my growing
Cleanse my soul. Let new Hope begin.
Let me embrace all the Love within.
Help me believe I am Whole.
I’m singing….

Heal me, I am listening.
Heal me, I have heard.
Please relieve me in this struggle.
I am grateful.I am humble.
I am offering myself, my old patterns, they will crumble.
Cleanse my soul. Let new Hope begin.
Let me embrace all the Love within.
Help me believe I am Whole.
I’m singing….

Heal me, I am listening…I am listening…Listening

Sue Roberts Ford

 

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