“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
(Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), Austrian-British philosopher who had romantic relationships with both men and women)
From The Music Director:
Back in January while we were still deep in our discussions of “Race, Power & Privilege,” I asked the choir to begin to think ahead with me to our new topic beginning this month: Gender.
Gendered language can exclude people. Of course, this has been clear to women for a long time. In our modern culture, we no longer claim that the words “all men” truly refer to “all people.”
Similarly, we now are beginning to understand that we cannot ever use traditional gendered language and include all people. Between the time I was taught “proper” grammar in school and this moment, we have gradually accepted the singular pronoun they as a crucial part of our language. We have new ways of speaking and writing that are more inclusive and less exclusive. Our transgender siblings have pronouns to use to describe themselves and have others describe them!
So, what does this have to do with the choir? In choirs we have a clear division of people that usually falls along gender lines. People who identify as men usually sing tenor or bass and people who identify as women usually sing soprano or alto. It is easy to fall into the trap of using the words men or women to designate the low or high voice parts.
However, if we truly want to be an inclusive community and an inclusive choir, we need to stop making this assumption. Truth is there are plenty of other reasons that a person may sing a part that is not one generally associated with their gender. Voice parts are more fluid than this simplistic, gender-static model.
I’ve been trying for quite a while to change my own language, but I had noticed that since I hadn’t actually told them that I’d been trying to do this, choir members would invoke default gender language to help me get out of my struggles to find different words.
In January, it was time (or past time!) to get the choir in on this little goal. I spoke to them by email.
“For the past year or so, I’ve tried to start talking about our sections not as “men” and “women,” but in other ways. It has come to my attention that, while these gender designations might be an accurate representation of our current sections, they limit our vision of what our choir can look like. And they limit our vision of what people’s experiences can look like.
[…] Let’s take this one small step right now. Let’s make space. Let’s make space for people who are here, and for people who are yet to walk in.”
Their response has been awesome. Choir members have been incredibly responsive to this small experiment with inclusive language and have helped me to get better at not using gendered language to talk about our voice parts. It is, of course, still a work in progress, but we’re on our way!
I wonder how we might be more inclusive to folks of all genders in other areas of church life?
Join the Adult Choir!
You (yes, YOU) are invited to join the Adult Choir. We rehearse from 9:00 – 10:15 on Sunday mornings and occasionally have additional rehearsals for special occasions (like Christmas, Music Sunday etc.) Adult Choir is intended to be a welcoming group that includes people of many different musical experiences. And, unlike singing in a community choir outside of church, the songs we sing have a very intentional and vital role in morning worship. If you’ve ever been curious, just come try it out! Or talk to Tara or a choir member.
Morning Song: On the first Sunday of each month (* except as noted below), the Congregation meets for 30-minutes of singing meditation beginning at 9:30 am in the Sanctuary. We will immerse ourselves in a few short, meditative songs with minutes of silence in between. Some of the songs will be familiar, some will be new. Some of the songs will be unaccompanied, and some will be accompanied by cello. To participate, you are absolutely not required to sing, but all voices are welcome – middle school age and older.
* Morning Song in April 2018 will be on April 8th at 9:30 am. We will sing songs as well as allow for periods of silence for meditation and reflection. No Choir on this day.
(Information is posted on the CALENDAR page)
Please check our Calendar or speak with Tara (musicdirector [at] melroseuu [dot] org) with any questions regarding assisting the Children’s Choir or your children joining the choir. When scheduled, rehearsals are 12:00 pm – 12:20 pm in the Sanctuary. Please check the calendar page.
(REHEARSALS are 9:00 a.m. every Sunday in the Sanctuary during the church year unless otherwise specified – see CALENDAR page)