‘Apart together’: Virtual concert celebrates 100 years of women’s suffrage

Community Reports

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Zia Singers are premiering their virtual concert experience based on Eric Lane Barnes’ ‘Unsung’ which focuses on six women throughout history, from Susan B. Anthony to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The show was originally how the all-women’s chorus planned to celebrate last year’s 100-year-anniversary of the 19th amendment being ratified but because of the pandemic, they had to postpone. Now, they’re moving forward with the show in the only way they can–by recording separately.

Artistic Director Aaron Howe said they still wanted a way to get together through the pandemic. “They are a very determined group of women because when the pandemic hit, they wanted to keep singing and they wanted to keep performances in some way,” Howe said.

In order for the group to do this, Howe had to learn some new skills in order to adapt the stage performance into an online performance. He learned how to edit the video and audio that he collected from each of the performers to put together into each video. “It’s been a time of challenging yet satisfying growth,” Howe said.

The Zia Singers have released two of the songs that are part of the “Unsung” production, premiering Jan. 23.

The performance will feature a set of songs written in various musical styles for the various women who made a major impact within history. Howe said each of the women had fun decorating their background with props and dressing up to match the theme of each song they performed.

Julie Kirk has been a member of the Zia Singers since 2001 and is one of the performers in this concert. She said while rehearsing virtually has been a challenge, she’s also found a positive side to it. “What is interesting about this time in history is that even though we’re apart, we’re still together,” Kirk said. I can see this being an opportunity for the future because we’re not limited as to location. We have a gal who just rejoined us who is in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, so she is able to sing with us,” Kirk said. “I can just see us having an opportunity to have people all around the world participate in these projects.”

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Learning how to work Zoom and the recording application came as a challenge to many of the singers, but they each found a way to make their performance the best they could be. They learned about recording clear audio in a quiet room, how to adjust their camera to be at a flattering angle and even some downloaded a teleprompter app so they could look at the screen while they sing instead of down at their notes.

Kirk said she enjoyed getting to learn about these women through the music, especially at a time when the country has its first female vice president. “It’s a historic day today,” Kirk said. “But just learning about these women, and doing this project with the Zia Singer women, it’s a comradery of women and these pieces mean more because they’re about women.”

The video performance will be made available on the Zia Singers YouTube channel at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.

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