by Sue Ann Rybak
Tis’ the season for winter concerts, but the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir, founded in 1975 by Catherine Roma, is the oldest existing feminist choir in the U.S. The local choir has a long history of using music to raise awareness about social justice issues, including gun violence.
This year ANNA will hold its annual Winter Concert, “Declaration of Interdependence,” on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. at Lutheran Church of Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia. The choir will sing music from Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and many more.
Miriam Davidson, artistic director for ANNA Crusis Women’s Choir, said ANNA is more than a choir.
“It is a community in every sense of the word,” the Germantown resident said. “People initially come here to sing with like-minded folks but soon come to realize that we are so much more than a group of people who sing together. There is power in intention. ANNA gives me a vehicle by which I can help bring people together for a common cause, singing from the heart because music and song are important to them.
“In concert, we try to make that same connection with the audience, to bring them into our community, to sing, all of us together, for causes and values that we all share. And if not, we can hope to at least open someone’s heart and mind to another perspective.”
The choir is named after the Greek word anacrusis, a musical term for “the unaccented – or ‘feminine’ upbeat that sets the stage for a downbeat.”
Davidson, a graduate of Cheltenham High School and the Tyler School of Art (1978), said although their name includes “women’s choir,” not everyone in the choir identifies as female.
“ANNA’s early years were dedicated to promoting music about and by women and giving gay and straight women a strong community where they could find their voice and live their feminist principles,” she said.
She said social justice and musical excellence have always been at the core of the group’s mission.
“Our current commitment to singing for and about social justice issues has not changed,” she said. “We still have a passion for and commitment to peace, justice and diversity. As the world in which we live continues to be divisive and exclusionary we try to use our voices to give fairness and compassion a place to live.”
She added that music is “a powerful tool for bringing people together.”
She talked about songs ANNA will be performing at their Winter Concerts.
“We are doing a beautiful arrangement of the Hebrew folk song, “Hine Ma Tov,” a song that I grew up with, which simply says ‘how good and pleasant it is for us to live together,’” she said.
The choir is also performing “Grace” by Elizabeth Alexander. Davidson said Alexander refers to grace as “something that is generously and freely given, that everyone automatically has.”
She added that ANNA is also going to sing Jonelle Monae’s tribute “Hell You Talmbout.” She said it’s a “powerful tribute to the black lives lost to police violence across the country.”
“It’s a dramatic rendering of chant and percussion, calling on us to remember these individuals and rise up in the spirit of justice.”
ANNA is more than a choir or community to Davidson, she described participating in ANNA as a “spiritual experience.”
“For me, participating in ANNA encompasses all that I am,” she said. “It uses all my musical skills that I have developed over the years. The people in ANNA touch my heart in so many ways I can’t count. And the values and belief systems that are exemplified in our music are the very values by which I try live my life.”
For more information about ANNA or tickets to the concert, go to https://annacrusis.org/.