Women in Harmony (WiH) began during the summer of 1993 with a small group of energetic and committed women. Our first concert, “Renaissance to Rock” took place in February, 1994. The chorus was initially directed by Sonja (“Sunny”) Dahlgren Pryor and accompanied by Linda Marks. Early performances were marked by irrepressible spirit, pride, humor and musical passion. For many women, singing in public with WiH was an act of courage and community affirmation.
In the spring of 1999, our section leaders, Sarah Allen and Sara Foster, stepped up to lead the group through a transitional time. In September 1999, Catherine (“Kitty”) Beller-McKenna and Deana Ingraham (now Deana Ingraham Gurney) came on board as Director and Accompanist, and they have been with WiH ever since.
WiH was founded on the cusp of a seventeen-year period (1995-2012) which would hold six highly-charged statewide ballot measures relating to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Mainers. With its forthright commitment to diversity and equality during a politically polarized time, the chorus quickly grew as a safe singing community for women of all sexual orientations with a wide range of age and musical experience.
Since its inception, WiH has sought opportunities to reach out into the community for special performances, to collaborate with other organizations, and to support the work of women composers and performers. We have appeared at a University of New England celebration of Women’s History Month, at Southern Maine PRIDE, at the University of Southern Maine, at local nursing homes, and as an opener for Chris Williamson and Tret Fure. We have collaborated and sung with other choruses at Boston’s illustrious Jordan Hall , in Northampton, MA and at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Merrill Auditorium. We have performed jointly with the Portsmouth Women’s Chorus, Maine Gay Men’s Chorus, and Pihcintu. In July 2014, we traveled to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to attend and perform at the Sister Singer’s Network 11th National Women’s Choral Festival.
WiH has been proud to support the work of women composers over the years. We have performed many works by living women composers/performers such as Gwyneth Walker, Joan Szymko, Eleanor Daley, Elizabeth Alexander, Erica Quin-Easter, Ruth Huber, Jenni Brandon, Pat Humphries, and Holly Near. In May 2007, with support from a Meet the Composer grant, we premiered our first commissioned work, Elizabeth Alexander’s They Have Freckles Everywhere. This was the culmination of an extensive interdisciplinary project with the Many Rivers Program at the Fred P. Hall Elementary School and the Maine College of Art. In May 2011, we premiered (f)light: a borderlands song cycle by Erica Quin-Easter, Wendy Burk, and Eric Magrane.
Beginning in 2000, American Sign Language Interpreters have been present at every concert of WiH’s regular season. This outreach to Deaf and hard of hearing audience members is an additional avenue of inclusion of all women, in keeping with the mission of social justice.
Women in Harmony is a vibrant feminist chorus of approximately 60 singing members (with a long waiting list) and several non-singing members working together for unity among women. The group is dedicated both to musical excellence and social justice. Each concert has a theme in line with our mission and we partner with a community organization involved with that theme.