“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, It’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
I have mentioned I have many interests in the Choral World. I enjoy program note writing, both for my own choirs and for others. I have given pre-concert lectures, both for choral works and orchestral, trying to be innovative in my presentations. As a former ballet dancer, I love “chorus-ography” and incorporating movement with choral singing. In fact, I’ve begun planning a concert scheduled some time in 2017 using Baroque Dance, and will probably blog about it here.
The opportunity to be involved in Special Interest Choruses usually presents itself when I least expect it. I don’t mention this particular interest, and then have an opportunity to learn something new or meet someone involved. That’s when I am amazed and mutter, “what a small world,” to myself. Here on ChoralNet, in my community and even in my own chamber choir, I have met people as passionate about Special Interest Choruses as I am.
There are many kinds of choruses not considered special interest eventho they focus on one particular repertoire in our art, such as mixed voices, men’s, women’s or children’s choruses. In the choral sense, special interest can mean many things. Certain groups of people singing together, or for a particular reason, whom we don’t usually think of as a chorus is what I am speaking about here.
There are choruses comprised of senior citizens as well as hospice choirs whose purpose is to bring peace and comfort to the dying. There are choruses focusing on certain ethnic music or workplace choruses or prison choruses. Once or twice a year around the country, singers convene together as a chorus, with the sole purpose of raising money for breast cancer research. Those singers often are breast cancer survivors or singers whose lives have been affected by breast cancer in some way. Bravi, I say to you all!
My particular interest, within special interest choruses, is the special population chorus; choruses comprised of singers—both children and adults—with disabilities. I’m the Editor and Owner of the ChoralNet Community “Friends of Joyful Noise,” a community within ChoralNet. This is where we welcome questions about music inclusion or working with singers with learning disabilities as well the nuts and bolts of starting a choir for adults with disabilities of any sort. But who are Joyful Noise and their Friends, you may ask?
Joyful Noise is a New Jersey (and also Delaware) based chorus, founded by Allison Fromm, which is comprised of adults with disabilities. They’ve sung at ACDA’s regional and national conferences, as well as at Harvard. Nick Page and Alice Parker have written music for them. Anyone who has seen and heard them have been touched and changed by the experience. Joyful Noise goes beyond what is expected because music means so much to them. The Joyful Noise singers think of themselves as singers and as people, something for us to think about when working with our own choruses.
Allison and I have been friends for years, meeting here on ChoralNet when she asked questions when first forming Joyful Noise. Both of us are touched by disability in some way, so talking about music and disability is a part of who we are. I admire her for what she has done because I could not do it. Having a child with autism and having to deal with disability on a daily basis makes it difficult for me to think about doing something like this. I need to get away from disability in my professional life; however, I’m their biggest supporter and cheerleader!
Joyful Noise and Allison have changed our choral world by spawning other choruses for adults with disability across the country. Directors see their performances at ACDA and want to start their own Joyful Noise clone. Verallen (Vera) Kleinhenz and Jeannine Kammann-Cessac founded Expressions of Joy in New Mexico. And in my own state of Illinois, Steven Szalaj is the director of Encore Joyful Noise. There are other Joyful Noise –like choruses around the country too, changing lives and hearts with their music. They are just a small group of choral directors, changing the world.