Sumer is Icumen In

Well, summer is in full swing and the chorus is out and about doing non-chorusy things like traveling, gardening, partying, hiking, sittin’ in the sun. It feels good to take a break.

But, a person’s got to keep singing. Often the chorus has a reunion toward the end of the summer to get back to singing and catch up with each other. This year, we’ve inviting you to join us. And by you, I mean all of you. Yes. You.

We’ll be presenting an Open Sing with Sing! at Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe on Wednesday, August 3rd, from 5:30-6:30pm. Think of it as a singing happy hour. Then stick around till 7pm to socialize with the women of the chorus.

This was a very popular suggestion with the chorus, we all really want to share this singing experience. And we’re especially inviting our men friends to come and take this opportunity to sing with us. If we get a good turnout and it’s a good time this may become a more frequent event.

Thanks to Amazing Grace for hosting!

Note: We had to cancel the Amazing Grace event, but hope to revisit the idea sometime this year.


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Let the music move you

The chorus had an outstanding time playing for the Homegrown Music Festival. Love and thanks to everyone who came out to hear us and to all of the hardworking people behind Homegrown who make that marvelous week’s worth of music happen. Oh, and did I mention that the chorus sounded ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!?? We have really put the time in this year and I’m feeling pretty proud.

I took in a few shows for Homegrown, and, as usual, I’m awed by the gifts our musicians bring to our community. Music is both work and pleasure, pastime and vocation. Every musician who performs in public works hard to bring their songs into being. The actual community building that happens when someone decides to make music with or for others is a quiet, but powerful force.

As a teenager I wrote a song to sing with my friends. That was my entire purpose, to make something we could sing together. As it turns out, it really rang true. I taught the song to my friends at Girl Scout camp, and wherever I went for a couple of years, and it fairly quickly spread to camps around the country. Today, I was reminded of how our songs reach beyond us and work in other people’s lives.

In my email inbox was a message from a woman who sings my song. She said that she began singing it to her daughter as soon as she learned she was pregnant, and has continued to sing it to her everyday since then. I can’t quite describe how it feels to know that my 15 year old self is singing to a child who lives today.

This connection between myself and the mother who wrote to me cannot be brushed off as small and irrelevant. The song lives in her enough to hunt me down and send me a message. I’ve been singing the song a lot myself lately as I work on some new musical skills and anticipate some future music making. In those moments we breathe the same air, even though we are half a continent apart.

Hear the chorus sing my song.

Hear me sing my song.

Homegrown 2016 - 2


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It’s that time of year again!

It’s almost time for the Duluth Homegrown Music Festival! When it comes to Homegrown it’s just as exciting to be in the audiences as it is to be on the stage. Don’t miss out.

We’re working hard to get our set together. We’ve got our first-ever song in five part harmony and a nice little surprise at the beginning of the show. So be on time!

Sing! performs on the final Sunday of the festival. Sunday, May 8 is Mother’s Day, we’ll perform at noon at Tycoons, 132 E Superior St. in Duluth. Come on out and have little brunch, recover from the week’s activities and enjoy spending some time with the women from Sing!

Find the Facebook Event here.

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Sing! Extra rehearsal March 30

We’ll be meeting Wednesday, March 30 to make up for the “snow” day cancellation. Sheila Shusterich the Ordean-East Middle School choir director will join us to teach Sahayta the song we’ll sing together with the sixth grade choir. We’ll also work on Afi A Ya with Sheila and the sixth graders will join us on that song.

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Sing! Rehearsal Cancelled Wednesday, March 16

Duluth Public Schools will be closed on Wednesday, March 16. See you next week!

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Sometimes you just have to be there

The chorus performed last week at the College of St. Scholastica. This was a joint performance with CSS percussion students, Harbor City International School African Music Ensemble and Choir students, and Two Harbors High School Band and Choir students. We came together under the direction of an amazing man and musician, Sowah Mensah.

I didn’t get any pictures. I never do, I’m too busy and never want to interrupt the moment to take a picture. I know I probably should have had something up on social media the next day, to keep some of the excitement going. But it just was not that kind of thing.

Let me tell you, the show was fabulous. All of the musicians did a wonderful job and the music sounded great! I mean. Great. I’m sure the audience had a good time, but I am absolutely positive that those of us who were making the music had a really, really, really, really good time.

We were playing/singing traditional music from Sowah’s home country of Ghana. The music is designed to bring people together. Not through listening or watching, but through participating. It felt so good to connect with all of those students and directors and make music that was absorbing, complex, interesting, and moving. And by moving, I also mean, move your body moving – danceable. It felt so good.

No video or recording or image can come close to what the actual experience was like. This is one of those times you just had to be there. I’m so glad that I was.


This is Sowah at Sing!’s 2011 concert. Can you feel it?


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Women at Work

The chorus has been preparing for our February 20 concert with Sowah Mensah, College of St. Scholastica Percussion Ensemble, Harbor City International School African Music Ensemble and Two Harbors High School Band and African Music Ensemble. This is going to be a very exciting event.

The Ghanaian music we are working on is quite challenging and with the large number of participants in this performance precision is a necessity. It feels good to strive for that high level of music making, and to bring the best we have to this music.

Some of the singers are new to the repertoire and it can be quite intense to take in new languages along with new musical language. The rhythmic organization of music in Ghana is centered around a timeline, a repeated rhythmic figure, rather than a meter or a counted beat. Added to all of this is the musical instrument Adenkum.

Adenkum is a calabash gourd. As an instrument it is played by hitting the gourd on the hands, forearms, and lap to produce a variety of sounds in rhythm. While we sing. The singers most often describe learning Adenkum, the musical style, as akin to rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time – while you sing. Kind of difficult at first, but once you get it, it is so fun to play.

Sowah will be meeting with the chorus this Wednesday to help us get ready. It’s always a pleasure for me to see my old friend, and cherished musical mentor.

Hope to see you at the concert!

More about Sowah Mensah



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Ring in the New

For a number of years the chorus has celebrated the New Year by singing early in the morning of December 31 at Beaner’s. I mean really early, like 7:00am. We love Beaner’s and hope you’ll find some time that day to take in their New Year’s Eve Bash. Music all day from 6:30am until the new year dawns.

This year, Sing! is switching it up and singing at 6:00pm on December 31. We were invited to do a little warm up music in the DECC ticket lobby before the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra‘s New Year’s Eve show. We’ll sing from about 6:00 or 6:15 until 6:45 or so. See our calendar page.

The Symphony is offering “An Evening with Sinatra” for their show. A Frank Sinatra tribute with Michael Andrew. Find out more. Thanks to the DSSO for asking us to share our music with their audience and for a generous pack of ticket vouchers.

If you won’t be making it to the Symphony that night, stop by on your way to your other events. Sing!’s performance is free, just stop into the DECC ticket lobby.

Warm wishes to all in this dark time of the year….

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Building and Rebuilding

The chorus came together this fall as an already established ensemble. Which is not to say that everything is the same. A few new faces squeaked in the door at the last minute, and weekly rehearsals have solidified with a core group of singers who have really made the weekly commitment and were not distracted by illness, injury, or other life events that take time and attention.

Our first song in five-part harmony is really shaping up. I think we can all be proud of how we have worked together to make that happen. Thanks to the remarkable musician/singer/composer/educator Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell who wrote the amazing song “On Children.” I can see a future that includes the chorus bringing her to Duluth for a workshop. That’s long-range planning and dreaming; but I like to imagine what’s possible.

We’ll be performing prior to the Duluth Superior Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve concert. Just a little warm up set in the DECC ticket lobby. This is a great opportunity for us to reach an audience that may not have heard us before. I always love these kind of casual situations, too, because it gives us a chance to just go for it. We’ll perform what we have right now and enjoy ourselves without a lot of stress or anticipatory tension.

The chorus takes a break on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I hope everyone enjoys the breather.

Sing! Tycoons March 2015 - 2

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Bring in the new!

This fall session is all about the new music. Part of my summer activities included sorting and squaring away my papers from the last 15 years of the chorus. Don’t worry, I didn’t toss much. I did realize, though, that we have been singing some of the same songs for a very long time. Nothing wrong with that, of course. There’s something great about having go-to music that sustains you over time. But, new music is a challenge, and that sparks new interest, new motivation, new pathways in the brain.

It’s a lot of work. For me putting parts together and for the chorus learning everything. I’m telling you, we’re practically sweating in the rehearsals lately – it’s like going for a good, long, run, ha! My favorite thing we’re working on is a version of the song “On Children”, lyrics by Kahlil Gibran, music by Ysaye Barnwell for the fabulous African American women’s ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock. Teasing out the parts has been very challenging for me, and for the first time the chorus is singing in five parts. It’s a rush!

I always begin with big plans for the year, then see what we can actually make happen. For me it’s a little tense as I try to negotiate my vision with reality. But it’s a creative tension that is part of what makes this experience so great for me.

Our big news of the year is our participation in the College of St. Scholastica’s African Music Festival on February 20, 2016. Thanks to Jeremy Craycraft for inviting us. The best part of this is that we’ll get to work with my dear friend and mentor Sowah Mensah once again. Sowah is originally from Ghana and teaches traditional West African music at Macalester College and to K-12 teachers, and students, all over the world. His Macalester African Music Ensemble is an amazing musical experience. Hear some samples of their music. This festival will also include my friends Nancy MacGibbon and her students from Two Harbors High School and Darin Bergsven and his students from Harbor City International School. All of that plus, the CSS percussion ensemble. Mark your calendars now.

To help you get into the mood of our new music, here’s Sweet Honey in the Rock.


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