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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 17, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 51
Cris Williamson performs at ChorusCares Concert 2010
Arts & Entertainment
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Cris Williamson performs at ChorusCares Concert 2010

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Cris Williamson and
Seattle Women's
Chorus
December 10-11
Unity Church

Nationally acclaimed singer and now Seattle-area resident Cris Williamson brought her unique, folk-pure voice to the Seattle Unity Church last weekend for a two-night concert to kick off the creation of a new nonprofit social service organization with hopes for a national network. ChorusCares is the brainchild of Cris and her partner and manager, Judy Werle, who see a huge hole in the health aid networks for Lesbians and Transgender people, particularly around catastrophic illness and aging issues. With the local closing of Verbena, there really is no specific health organization in the Seattle area that supports this population's health.

Cris and Judy were two stalwart supporters of men regarding the AIDS and HIV crisis times. They saw how people pulled support together, creating feeding networks, transportation support, and all kinds of extra kindnesses for those affected by HIV.

Their involvement with Seattle Women's Chorus and with other choruses around the country in recent years also showed them that those women lucky enough to be connected to choruses often had a kind of network to turn to in the event of breast and other cancer attacks, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses. Chorus members provide transportation, food, and hand-holding when necessary, like at the doctor. A model for what ChorusCares could become is Musicares, developed by the music industry, and housed at the Grammy organization (http://www2.grammy.com/musicares/) that supports musicians and 'covers a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies.'

'Churches do the same kind of thing, but what's our church? Oft times, many of us have been turned away from church. It's hard to think of a group that would be more disenfranchised as Lesbians,' asserts Judy Werle.

Werle thinks that ChorusCares could be a kind of clearinghouse for various services to be donated, like housecleaning and repair people who will donate services. 'We have pieces of the puzzle, but we don't have enough community. This is a way of beginning to access Lesbian and Lesbian-friendly populations. Women come [to concerts] and say, 'We don't have community anymore. When are you coming back?' In some cities, the only thing that brings a Lesbian community out is the women's chorus or a concert by Cris Williamson or Holly Near or someone like that.'

On December 10 and 11, Cris and special guest performers Seattle Women's Chorus sang holiday favorites to packed and enthusiastic audiences. Cris played the piano, ukulele, guitar and strumstick. Sometimes solo, sometimes with a small group of women, and for a few songs with 150 chorus members, she celebrated the season. Some of the songs included composers such as Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, and a number of newer songs she's composed in recent years.

A new arrangement for Maoz Tzur - a Hebrew prayer said around Hannukah - included an easy refrain for the whole audience to sing along to and provided a unique sound experience as the entire room became backup singers.

SWC sang 'Hot Buttered Rum,' an arrangement of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' by Holst and Rosetti, and Cris' song 'Wishbook,' about looking in the Sears catalog and dreaming about what was going to appear for Christmas. At the end of the concert, the room was darkened and little candles appeared all around the hall, held by chorus members spread along the walls and up in the balcony. Then Jane Siberry's 'Calling All Angels' was sung, accompanied by Dennis Coleman, SWC director, on piano. It was a transcendent moment. After Cris' trademark lullaby sing-along ('Like a Ship'), the evening was over.

Enough money was raised by the event to create the seed money for the new organization to begin the structural work necessary. Williamson and Werle hope that www.choruscares.com will become a full-fledged 501(c)3 nonprofit that can make a difference in women's lives.

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