By Linda A. Morris and Pam Miller
In fall of 2013, as we watched the BCCO wait list for altos and sopranos grow ever longer, a small group of BCCO singers began to talk seriously about establishing a women’s chorus. It was not a new idea, but it was an idea whose time had apparently come. Mary Rogier, Catherine Atcheson, Linda Berti, and ourselves (Pam Miller and Linda Morris), we began to explore the possibility with Debra Golata. She immediately expressed interest in accepting such a challenge. Deb would become the Music Director, given her many musical and conducting talents, and BCCO would underwrite the project with financial support while the women’s chorus found its way. Ming and the Board of Directors gave the idea their wholehearted support, and the women’s chorus was born.
The Berkeley Women’s Community Chorus (BWCC) was based on the same principles and philosophies that had guided BCCO for 50 years: a non-audition chorus, open to singers of all levels of experience, offering its concerts free of charge to the public. We don’t think any of us imagined then how quickly the chorus would come together under Deb’s direction. In that first semester, Deb did everything herself. She planned the repertoire, ordered music, made registration packets, engaged the accompanist, arranged for rehearsal and concert space, wrote program notes, and taught fifty singers to come together in song.
Their first concert took place in the spring of 2014 before an overflowing audience. We were all delighted by how good the chorus sounded, even in that first semester; we were equally impressed by the range of their repertoire. The concert was reviewed in BCCO’s newsletter, Quarter Notes, and this is some of what was said about that first thrilling performance:
The 50-member chorus, under the direction of the talented and energetic Debra Golata, performed an eclectic sampler of music from Renaissance to jazz. With its international flavor, the concert introduced the audience to a traditional Japanese folk song, a Hebrew love song, and a Navajo prayer. Works by Bach, Handel, and Mendelssohn showcased the group’s mastery of classical works, and the program also included modern standards like “Stormy Weather.” Vocal soloists merged with the chorus to produce a sweet and resonant sound, with accompaniment during different pieces by violin, piano, or percussion.
In the semesters that have followed, the chorus has only become more polished and professional sounding. The concerts always begin with a singing processional, and by the time the first song ends and all singers are in place on the stage, the audience knows that what will follow will be a musical treat. Deb Golata’s remarkable enthusiasm and musicianship comes through in every concert season, and the chorus continues to perform to packed and fully appreciative audiences.
As for BCCO underwriting the chorus, it has never been necessary because of the generosity of the singers themselves and donations by the audience. The BWCC continues to be affiliated with BCCO, much to our mutual pleasure and delight. Congratulations and hearty thanks to Deb Golata.
(For more information about BWCC see http://bcco.org/womens-chorus)