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A Songbird Sisterhood in the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia's Anna Crusis Choir

By Kelly Gallagher

Philadelphia may be called the "city of brotherly love," but one local organization shifts the emphasis of the city motto to promote solidarity in sisterhood. Since 1975, Anna Crusis Women's Choir has offered a safe, welcoming community for Philadelphia-area women to celebrate life and spirit as they come together to sing. In addition to being a women's choir, Anna Crusis identifies itself as a feminist choir. But what exactly does that mean?

According to Miriam Davidson, artistic director of Anna Crusis, the distinction of "feminist choir" means the group comes together with a particular spirit in mind:

Our mission states the importance of diversity in our membership and audience. A belief in social justice is an important part of what guides us in our choice of music and the kinds of organizations we sing for. We sing to raise awareness for causes we believe. Our concerts reflect our desire not only to entertain, but to empower and uplift our audiences with music that inspires and transforms.

Anna Crusis self-produces four concerts every season, and puts on special performances for various local groups and events such as Philadelphia Christmas Village, Ten Thousand Villages' Women Artist Days, and the concert series at Reading Terminal Market. This year, the group celebrates its 40th anniversary with concerts on June 6th and 7th. When asked about a favorite Anna Crusis performance, Davidson mentions a recent event for the group Delco United that promoted sensible gun policy. "We sang as part of a ceremony that commemorated the anniversary of the shooting in Sandy Hook, CT," says Davidson. "It was a powerful and moving experience for us, as well as for the people attending."

Philadelphia-area women from all walks of life are represented in Anna Crusis choir, which is named not for a person, but after the Greek word "anacrusis"- the upbeat moment of anticipation that occurs when a singer takes a breath just prior to vocalization. Choir members range in age from their twenties to their seventies, and represent a variety of races. Many Anna Crusis women identify as part of the LGBT community. Women who are interested in joining voices and hearts with other women in the name of community, diversity, musical excellence, and positive social change in Philadelphia and beyond will be right at home in the Anna Crusis Choir.

"When I get e-mails from woman asking about an audition," says Davidson, "they seem to mention the same things. They are drawn to us as a community that does more than just sing, that welcomes singers with various levels of musicianship skills, that sings for social justice, and is committed to bringing a voice to women and women's issues."

The choir's musical repertoire includes contemporary and classical women's choral music, world music, popular music, music from the African American tradition, and jazz. "If it's got the right message," declares Davidson, "we sing it!"

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About The Author

Kelly Gallagher studied creative writing at SUNY Oswego and Vermont College of Fine...

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