The American Choral Directors Association’s new structure is opening the gates to innovation and inclusivity for our choral mission. Specifically, our membership in all our state chapters have the opportunity now to grow choirs in all of the areas that have activity or promise at the grassroots levels of practice and performance. To be sure, this activity is already taking place throughout the country, but now, ACDA wants this activity represented and resourced at the highest level of our collective concentration.
The following is how one of our Repertoire and Resources (former Repertoire and Standards) leaders in North Carolina has immediately grasped the potential of our recent reforms. In the North Carolina state ACDA newsletter Carolina Caroler, R&R Chair for Community Choirs and lifetime ACDA member, Rev. Tony Spencer, offers us his journey to the place we find ourselves now as we embrace choral expression of every shape and kind:
In January the ACDA membership redefined the Repertoire and Standards areas as we have known them. One of the changes is to more aptly name ourselves ‘Repertoire and Resources.’ Community Choirs and Music in Worship will be included in the ‘Life Long’ theme. The ‘Life Long’ rubric has resonated with me in especially meaningful ways recently.
In 2011, I wandered into an interest session at our national conference in Chicago entitled ‘Melodies that Sing: ‘We Love to Sing’ with Joyful Noise.’ Allison Fromm and Alice Parker were the presenters and Joyful Noise was the demonstration choir. That Saturday morning, however, my idea about community singing changed forever.
Joyful Noise is a chorus of forty-five adults, ages 17-70, with physical and neurological challenges and acquired brain injuries. They sang and touched the hearts of everyone in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton. They were eager, joyful singers and the presenters were no longer the attraction.
I direct a small community chorus in Rutherford County, NC. We sing a Holiday Concert Messiah, every other year, and sing with the local university orchestra on occasion. But after hearing Joyful Noise, I contacted their director, Allison Fromm, and she told me what was needed to start and maintain a special needs choir. So….as an outreach of the Rutherford Community Chorus, Cheerful Voices was born.
Cheerful Voices has been in existence for one year now. They have sung the National Anthem for sporting events, at civic clubs, luncheons and they were featured in an interest session at our NC ACDA Conference. They sing at our Holiday Concert and people who had NEVER attended a choral concert came and experienced the power of artistic expression as we all sang the Willcocks carols with brass and organ accompaniment. We were a good community chorus before, but now, our community has grown to include more than the one-percent!
And here is Tony’s concluding statement:
Every person deserves an opportunity to sing in a choir. Yes, ‘Life Long’ describes it very well.
Tony gets it. I think many of you get it. Now, it is time to put “it” into action throughout our chapters, on every level of ACDA’s work—State, Division, and National. For some state chapters this will mean an R&R area for addressing the needs of choirs focused on Social Justice. For other state chapters this may mean an R&R area for addressing the needs of choirs that are part of senior centers and assisted living communities. For many state chapters this will mean R&R areas for addressing long-overlooked choir groups such as gospel choirs, barbershop choirs, recreational choirs, or choirs related to the US military branches.
In January of this year, our ACDA membership voted a 98% approval of our new structure. The vote was overwhelmingly affirmative and exciting. Now it is time for us to take action by grasping the purpose of this structure and putting it to work throughout our state chapters. As Tony Spencer concludes, “Every person deserves an opportunity to sing in a choir.” And I would add, every serious effort at ongoing choral expression deserves the attention and representation of ACDA.