Central Pennsylvania Womyn's Chorus
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Spring 2006 concert
May 6 Unity Church of Harrisburg, Enola

Giesala Collins, Artistic Director (far right)
Anthony Haubert, Accompanist (Piano) (middle front)
Renee Bartholomew, Percussion (right front)
Patricia George, Bass (left front)
Lee Melchior, Choralographer (second row, second in from right)

The stoles the chorus is wearing were decorated by each singer to reflect her own spirituality, during a workshop led by an art therapist and member of the chorus, Adele J.

Link to photo albums for this concert

Link to accolades for the concert

Archival Promotional Material (Link to "anchor" at bottom of page)

Message from the Director
(published in the program book)

Welcome to our concert “WomanSpirit”. This promises to be a journey to the inner self.

You have the privilege of experiencing a very personal performance from the singers. Through a series of “process” sessions, questionnaires, and personal interviews, information was gathered to learn each singer’s spiritual path. Our paths are traced from childhood, to early adulthood, to the present.

We also searched the deep past to acknowledge and celebrate how our female ancestors of song celebrated their spirituality.

The catalyst for attempting such a project came from a disheartening event the chorus experienced within the last year that touched upon religion vs. spirituality. My vision for a concert of how women celebrate spirituality through music shifted, from singing songs of various spiritual traditions across the world, to honoring how the women of this chorus celebrate their spirituality.

To my delight, the singers courageously took on this project very slowly and deliberately. Every piece that you will hear tonight was picked by a committee of women of very diverse spiritual paths, ensuring that all singers were represented in this concert. This music had to speak to the group as a whole. At the same time, we needed to make sure that each woman could find a piece of this concert that resonates with her and her alone.

I hope that you, our larger community, will see, hear, and know what it is that unites us and the unique perspective each woman brings to this chorus. Collectively, we have allowed ourselves to create a safe space in which all can come to the table welcomed and express their spirits. May your spirit be uplifted by the sights and sounds of our “WomanSpirit!”


NOTE: The quotations that appear between the songs were compiled by several singers from the questionnaires and interviews, and read anonymously "off stage" over the sound system, by singers-on-leave Jan D. and Suzanne N. We express our deep appreciation to each singer for sharing such personal aspects of herself.


By Naomi Stephan

"I was required to attend church three times a week."

"I am the first born child of a Methodist minister, so I didn’t have a lot of choice about being involved in church."

"I knew, even as a 3 year old, that religion was the most important thing in life. I took the vivid descriptions of the end of the world and the ever-looming flames of hell with terrifying literalness."

"My mother wasn’t very religious, but we went to church every Sunday. I felt like it was a fashion parade and that’s all."

"I had to put up a strong front and never let on that there were painful family issues to deal with."

"Our minister was a preacher who told us that God loved us and wanted us to have life abundantly."

Balm in Gilead

Traditional African American spiritual
arranged by Ysaye M. Barnwell

"I remember once sitting on the kneeler backwards and playing with the people behind me, until my mother made me turn around."

"I remember attending church in my little white gloves with the frilly cuffs and my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ hat."

"I was raised Catholic in a not very nice way."

"God was an old man with a long white beard who lived in the sky and would send you to hell if you were bad."

"I don’t even know what people mean when they speak of spirituality."

"I believed that the Bible was literally true."

"The best part of church was always the music."

So Many Angels

Traditional Angels Watching Over
arranged by Gwyneth Walker
part of her set of pieces, The Spirit of Women

Opening ensemble: Donna B, Yvonne R, Susan S, Arleen S

"My family thought my serious questions about religion and God were funny. I was 'The Rebbitsen', the 'Rabbi’s wife'. The implication was that I was overly pious. I just wanted to know more about the spiritual world."

"I was a secular Jew, but I started on a quest. I got a Catholic bible and a rosary and studied. I can still recite the rosary."

"I once argued with a minister about the role of Jesus and he told me that I might as well be Jewish, so I went to study at the local synagogue for several years."

Jerusalem of Gold

Original music and lyric by Naomi Shemir-Sapi
English version by Norman Newell
arranged by Lisa Taillacq

Trio: Laura D, Cathy N, Joanne N

“The wine-clear mountain air and the scent of pines are wafted on the winds of dusk together with the sound of bells. And with slumbering tree and stone the solitary city with a wall through its heart is held captive in its dream. Jerusalem of gold, of light, of bronze, I am the violin for your songs.”

"All the ministers, elders, readers and speakers were men. The women got to serve tea. That was not for me."

"My mom would look at me being all involved in church and shake her head. She said, 'Where’d you come from?'”

"Playing cards, dancing and fun in general were not allowed.

"It wasn’t all awful; I was in the church choir and that was kind of cool.

"When I am at my lowest, I look into nature and sing."

"The best part of church was always the music."

Goodnight God

Music by René Clausen, words by Danu Baxter from Earth Prayers

"At least once every school year one kid or another tells me that gays are an abomination before Christ, that gays will all burn in hell, or something equally unpleasant."

"We said the Apostle s Creed every Sunday: 'We are born sinful and unclean.' You’re doomed from the very start."

"The church offered two roles for women: Virgin and Temptress. How can a woman come to a healthy robust life from that?"

"Ten years ago I read The Feminine Face of God. It changed my life."

Myth in Genesis

by Linda Noel Schierman
as performed by Venus Envy

Singers: Sandy B, Chris C, Laura D, Adele J, Lee M, Cathy N, Linda N, Arleen S

"Listening to the messages of God with the people abusing you really confuses the mind of a child."

"I went far afield from my family and God. All of the anger, loneliness and frustration erupted all at once and I went wild."

"I went into an anti-spiritual period, because I thought there were only 2 choices, Christianity or nothing."

"I am an atheist who has a relationship with a God I don't really believe in."

"I am moved by seeing the clouds and the sky. I am moved by geologic drama."


Music by Ysaye M. Barnwell
words by Birago Diop

"Though my family attended a Presbyterian church, really the family religion was Irreverence."

"I even pondered the idea of going into the convent until I realized they were a major boss over you. I didn’t want anything to do with that."

"When I hit puberty, I began to have trouble with same-sex attractions. I responded by involving myself more deeply in church activities. There was a lot of fear in me then."

"But I look at church stuff with a more jaded eye since I came out."

"Everyone’s looking to see what so and so wore to church."

"Deep down inside I was never femme and I hated dresses."

Guide Me

Traditional Appalachian spiritual
additional words and arrangement by Ellen Robinson

Singer: Lee M

with Cathy H, Lil M, Joanne N, Linda N, Susan S

"When I became an adult, all hell broke loose. First, I came out."

"When I was a young woman, an Episcopal bishop was censured by the church for having the audacity to ordain a woman."

"At college I was exposed to people who were different from me for the first time in my life. I realized then how isolated I had been, and how unaccepting I was."

"I came to realize how the powerful have used religion as justification for so many horrible acts."

I Ain’t Afraid

Words and music by Holly Near
arranged by J. David Moore

Soloists: Chris C, Cathy N, Yvonne R

Trio: Anna C, Cathy H, Cathy N

"This church wasn’t focused on guilt and redemption, it was a creative spirituality that said we are born pure and clean, a gift to the Universe."

"I think of those beautiful crystals, and I try to speak love and gratitude to water now."

"My spiritual path is not religious. I love to be in nature, celebrate the moon and the seasons, and be with like-minded women."

I Thank You God

by Gwyneth Walker
poem by E. E. Cummings

— Intermission —

Frame Drum Blessing

Inspired by Layne Redmond’s book When the Drummers Were Women, and drawn from her video Ritual Drumming (now available as A Sense of Time).

Ensemble: Lee M, Linda N, Joanne N, Susan S, Shirley T

The frame drum has been used by women in ritual for thousands of years.

"I think of drumming as “Make a joyful noise unto our mother, Earth."

"One of the Indian Ten Commandments and is: Treat the Earth and all that dwell on it with respect.'"

"I am a pagan. Yep, one of those tree-huggin’, incense-burnin’, cauldron-stirrin’, dancin-naked-in-the-woods, card carryin’, goddess-worshippin’, full-moon howlin’, lovers of Mother Nature and the entire cosmic web of existence."

"We are all caretakers of this planet."

Earth My Body

Contemporary chant
from the arrangement on the CD Circle of Women

Singers: Sandy B, Chris C, Adele J, Cathy N, Yvonne R, Arleen S, Anna C

Dancer: Lee M

"At sunset, I may go outside and play the flute, not in front of people, but as a spiritual experience."

"Any spiritual connection I felt with a higher being wasn’t dependent on going to church. I remember saying I’d prefer to spend my Sunday morning time being outside."

"The turn of the seasons and the power of our mother moves me beyond my understanding."

Kore Evohe

Based on a chant by Sabina C. Becker
words and music by John Schrag
SATB arrangement by John M. Kelleher

For millenia, the central and most profound mystery celelebrated by the peoples who lived in the areas now known as Greece and Turkey was the maiden goddess Kore’s departure to the underworld each fall, bringing winter, and her annual reunion with her mother, bringing spring. “Kore Evohe” means simply, “Hail Kore.”

"It was tremendously liberating to discover that there were other ways of thinking."

"The first time I heard the 23rd Psalm sung with a female pronoun for the Lord, I remember sobbing with joy and relief."

"It is helpful to me (and was seen as revolutionary by some) to think of the creator as female."

We All Come from the Goddess

By Z Budapest
from the arrangement on the CD Circle of Women

"I am involved heavily with churches in my volunteer activities, but I suppose that is largely because churches are involved in good works."

"I remember when my chorus was asked to please leave the church where we had rehearsed for a couple of years... their board had found out we were a primarily lesbian group."

"I went to mass at the University’s Newman Center once, and received letters asking for money for the next 10 years!"

"In college, I came out as a lesbian but remained spiritually active on campus, creating a dichotomy that continued through until my 30’s."

"My foster family, who went to church 3 times a week, hated anyone different, from Catholics to faggots."

Welcome Table

Traditional, arranged by Sue Fulton and Penny Gnesin

Soloists: Anna C, Joanne N, Yvonne R, Susan S

"There seems to be an unwritten law that you can’t be a traditional religious person and be a lesbian
I separate myself from that."

"When we wing 'Spirit of Life' in church, I am always moved to tears by it."

"Rumi wrote that God dwells in our hearts and is 'nowhere else to be found.'"

Deep Peace

Traditional Gaelic blessing, arranged by Bill Douglas

"I think of myself as a Humanist. I am committed to making life better for us here on earth. Any afterlife will have to take care of itself."

I realized that the condemnation of gays or anyone else is not what Jesus was about in his, nor what the Creator asks of us."

"I had found a church where God was mother as well as father. And all the interactions there loosened up my tightness."

"Now I recognize that every choice I make every day has spiritual impact. I am aware of and practice keeping in my heart the Oneness with all of creation."


By Christine Korb

text by C.K., from Sanskrit

Ensemble: Donna B, Laura D, Adele J, Lee M, Linda M, Cathy N, Arleen S, Susan S

This piece won an international peace award after its premiere performance in Warsaw and Krakow, Poland. According to the Yoga Journal (www.yogajournal.com), “the gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra.... To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart chakra, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. “In India it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.”

"I never dreamed I could have lived long enough to find a spiritual home after this amazing life-long quest."

"The first sermon that really moved me was when a Unitarian minister urged us to get out of our comfort zones and go out into the world, and meet people different from ourselves."

"Together, it is our call to bring all into the circle and allow all to climb out of the box that society has forced us into."

Tzena, Tzena, Tzena, Tzena

Music by Issachar Miron, arrranged by J. David Mo
English lyrics by Gordon Jenkins and Pete Seeger Hebrew lyrics by Yehiel Haggiz, Arabic lyrics by Salman Natour

Choreographer: Lee M

Dancers: Chris C, Laura D, Darla H, Lee M, Joanne N, Linda N, Lucy T

"The key musical element which catches me is harmony and I instinctively break into it. That is my spirituality – harmony and equality in the human race."

"I love to sing in groups. It doesn’t matter what style of music; it’s the connection and the blending."

"I began to embrace the concept of a feminine divine."

"For every song we sang, the bricks from the wall I built around me fell down one by one. I started felling pain, pleasure and, oh, the love."

Find Us Faithful

By John Mohr

Singer: Laura Dalton

"I was a year into my recovery, and the next step was 'come to believe in a power greater than myself' and 'make a decision to turn your life over to god as we understand god to be.' Are you kidding?"

"Music, dance, crafts and costume fulfill my need for self-expression."

"I love good music... Yes the Rolling Stones! I like that lower chakra stuff."

Feel Good

By L. Craig Tyson and Leonard Scott

arranged by Barbara Baker and David J. Elliott

Trio: Donna B, Chris C, and Yvonne R

"I felt that my God, my church, my religion were rejecting my talents and my dedication because I was a girl."

"At a conference at Wellesley, I saw across the room a beautiful confident woman in a clerical collar. How wonderful for young women to have such a role model."

"I was looking for a place to be with other women to sing. I can’t tell you how much this has meant to me, like a fulfillment of something longed for."

"Singing with my sisters makes me high."

"And now spirituality isn’t a Sunday thing, but an everyday thing. And it isn’t about one form of ritual, but many forms. It remains about having life from the Creator abundantly."

WomanSpirit Rising

by Karen Beth

Archival Material

These are printed materials in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) format. (If they don't open for you, see here.)

Press release

Order form and rate chart for program book ads

Printed ads

"Insert-size" (3 to a sheet) both front and back (ticket order form)

8 and 1/2 by 11 inches

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