By Allen Davis, NCMC Board Member
The Community Musician is proud to introduce the Pride Chorus, an important new NCMC musical activity and a community treasure. Conceived and organized by its leader Mara Levi and Jason Trotta in the fall of 2019, and almost immediately forced to deal with the constrictions of the pandemic a few months later, its work has continued despite the serious challenges, especially early in an organization’s life. Performances of their 2021 project “Pride Chorus Unmasked” are being presented virtually on Fridays throughout the month of June, culminating in a June 25th presentation at 7:00pm, all available through the NCMC web site (www.ncmc.net/pride).
We spoke with Mara recently about their motivation and goals for the Pride Chorus: “I wanted to create a chorus of voices from throughout the LGBTQIA community and its allies, a safe space for the exploration through music of our personal and social selves that reflected and supported who we are – collaborative, self-defining in terms of parts [no directorial SATB assignments], open to naturally occurring leadership [not the dictatorial structure of ‘maestro and the compliant masses’]. I wanted to build culture and community.”
Mara graduated from Amherst College with a Music major and returned to the Valley where they now teach high school music. They are also a composer and performer and recording artist, bringing their classical, folk and jazz background to their compositions and performances. Mara does the arrangements for the Pride Chorus, but the fluidity and openness to contributions from all its members creates a sound and an energy, and a sense of “joy” that reflect its values and identities. Mara talks about “orbs of sound, interacting and building off each other to create an energizing, lifting” loop of sound and sense that connects one part to the others, its members to each other, its audiences, and to the wider LGBTQIA community, while building bridges of respect, support, and love within the broader community as well. Mara has plans to present Pride to a variety of diverse community organizations and venues and hopes to be able to collaborate musically with other musical organizations open to building community through musical expression.
Mara tells us, "To me, the most important tenet of the chorus is that we all come as we are, and as we identify, and there's space for everyone - professionally trained, amateur, AFAB singing bass, and AMAB singing bass together." Mara’s unique skill as a leader and arranger allows them to find ways to build on the strengths of the Pride Chorus’ members and not be limited by range, music-reading ability, or variations in experience. Registration will soon be open for the fall semester (on the NCMC web site). There is tuition, but a liberal policy is in place that provides scholarship support and sliding scales, major, minor, and modal!
We hope you will check out “Pride Chorus Unmasked” at www.ncmc.net/pride, especially the final virtual event on Friday, June 25th at 7:00pm. Of course we hope that as the fog of Covid lifts, we will slowly come out into the open and reconnect to things we put on hold, and that new members will join in the joy of music and community-making with Mara and the Pride Chorus as it emerges as a live, in-person activity at NCMC and around the Valley.
The Pride Chorus project “Pride Chorus Unmasked” was funded in part by the Northampton Arts Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.