Vocal Area Network logo VAN Feature

Melodia Women's Choir raises soprano and alto voices in New York City
by Cynthia L. Cooper for Vocal Area Network
Posted January 16, 2004

MelodiaSitting as an observer in the audience of a concert during a choral convention in New York City last year, Jennifer Clarke found herself mesmerized by a group of singers that performed exquisitely with soprano and alto voices. A dedicated choral singer since childhood, Clarke appreciated the richness of classical works. But her opportunities to sing music written for treble voices were rare, usually limited to a single selection in a concert or two. And, unfortunately, joining the choral group onstage, Elektra, seemed highly unlikely: the choir is located in western Canada, and Clarke lives in New York. But the vision of a women's choir soon resulted in Melodia Women's Choir of NYC, a choral group that Clarke founded as a nonprofit organization in late summer 2003 to perform classical music for women's voices to a high standard of excellence.

In December, the board of Melodia, with Clarke as its president, appointed Cynthia Powell as Choral Director. Powell has a powerful and wide-ranging choral resume. She is currently the Music Director and Organist of Christ Church in Ridgewood, the Organist/Choirmaster of Temple Sinai in Tenafly and Artistic Director of the Stonewall Chorale in New York City. A graduate of Westminster Choir College, Powell served on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College, directing its choral program, and has also performed extensively with composer/director Meredith Monk.

This month, on January 22 and 24, Powell will lead Melodia's auditions in order to assemble a group of 20 experienced nonprofessional singers. The group will begin rehearsals soon afterward, meeting weekly on Monday evenings at St. Peter's Church in Chelsea to prepare for a spring concert. Critical to Melodia's approach is fostering a rehearsal atmosphere that emphasizes congeniality and respect, say Powell and Clarke.

In founding Melodia Women's Choir, Clarke blended two central aspects of her life: her deep love of music and her talent as a management consultant to arts organizations. Clarke has a master's degree in arts management from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, as well as an extensive background working with dozens of respected non-profit arts organizations in New York and London. She has a keen sense of successful strategies for building a distinctive arts organization.

But passion for the music is what fueled Clarke's drive to form a women's choir. "I love the experience of many voices creating one beautiful sound," she says, "and of bringing the delight of music to audiences." Clarke, who holds music and English degrees from Leeds University in England, says that specialized women's choral singing largely faded from the non-professional choral world in the late 20th century, despite a strong women's choral movement in colleges and universities. Now, she says, the trend is shifting, and women's choral singing is re-emerging with a new energy. "Choirs of women's voices are again coming to the fore in cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe," says Clarke.

Melodia's musical intention is to explore the wealth of secular women's choral music from the 19th century to the present. Works by Holst, Bartok, Debussy and Brahms will appear alongside rarely performed choral treasures by lesser-known composers and women composers. Melodia's concerts will demonstrate the breadth, vitality and variety of women's choral music.

The first concert of Melodia Women's Choir of NYC is scheduled for May 17 at St. Peter's Church in Chelsea.

Cynthia L. Cooper is a journalist in New York City, who has written for many publications, including Glamour, Marie Claire, Women's Enews, Tom Paine.com, Poz and Ms. She is an avid choral audience member, and on the board of Melodia Women's Choir of NYC. This is her first article for Vocal Area Network.

Content Contact: Cynthia L. Cooper.
Revision Date: January 16, 2004.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

 Vocal Area Network logo