Raising their voices

April 28, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

SHARPSBURG - What do a Porsche and a female member of a mixed choir have in common?

They often have range they are limited from demonstrating.

In a mixed choir, often the vocal range of female altos treads on the men singing bass and tenor so it's difficult to gain a real appreciation for the altos' lower range, according to Georgiann H. Toole, director of the Antietam Women's Ensemble.

Audience members will get a chance to hear that kind of range this weekend during the ensemble's spring concert at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Sharpsburg. The concerts are at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Toole decided to form a choir after moving back to the Sharpsburg area from North Carolina about four years ago. Whenever she told local residents about her background in music and music education, Toole said they would appear misty-eyed and reminiscent of their singing days in high school or college. She has composed music for choirs and conducted a large church choir in North Carolina.


The group performed its first concert in November 2004.

She chose to form a women's ensemble because there already were several mixed choirs in the area and it gave her a chance to explore a repertoire that had been neglected, she said.

In the last decade or so, that neglect has dissipated and more interesting and adventurous pieces have been composed for women's ensembles, Toole said.

It's no longer just sweet, pretty music.

Women's ensembles give altos and sopranos opportunities to use their entire vocal range, Toole said.

"If you've got a three-octave range, why limit to half an octave?" she said.

This weekend's concerts will include older and newer pieces.

The centerpiece is a set of three pieces entitled "Songs of Light," which was written in 1999 and based on Inuit text, Toole said.

Songs for the "Aspects of Light" concerts have references to light such as moonlight ("Silver Moon"), starlight, sunrise and sunset, as well as light being understanding, Toole said.

The 20-member choir will sing "The March of the Women," composed by Ethel Mary Smyth, who died in 1944, Toole said.

Smyth grew up in a well-to-do family in England that would not let her, as a lady of her station, study music, Toole said. But, Smyth rebelled, studied music and composed music for the women's suffrage movement in England.

If you go ...

WHAT: Antietam Women's Ensemble's "Aspects of Light" concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1.

WHERE: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Sharpsburg, corner of Main and Church streets.

COST: Admission is $5.

DIRECTIONS: Take Md. 65 (Sharpsburg Pike) south to Sharpsburg. The church is on your left at the stop sign. Parking is on the street.

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