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In Greek mythology, it was believed that nine goddesses served as the inspiration for literature, arts and sciences. The eldest and wisest of these nine Muses was the muse of epic poetry and thought to be the inspiration behind Homer’s “Illiad” and “Odyssey.” She also was the mother of Orpheus, the greatest musician of Greek mythology and Linus, the inventor of melody and rhythm. Lastly, this muse is also a female choir in Athens, Ohio, that is, called Calliope.
“The title comes from a song that we’re singing called ‘The Women Gather,’” said Nancy Pierce, director of the choir. “It’s a song by Sweet Honey in the Rock, and they are a group of African-American women who have been together for quite a few years…it sort of grew into the name of the concert, I think as we were singing it.”
Also joining the choir are special guests Gay Dalzell, Julia Farver, Duane Bogart and John Saunders. Because of Athens’ close-knit community, it isn’t too difficult to find musicians to accompany the choir.
“This little community is a community that is strong in the arts and music. You know people or you know people who know people often, you can make links with people who play this and that,” said Pierce.
The Calliope Feminist Choir is a group of 35 women ranging from ages 12 to 78. The group’s birth in 1993 was spurred by the women’s movement, and like it’s political conception, the choir members continue to raise their voices in harmony to speak of current events and social issues.
“It seems like environmental issues and environmental justice issues and global warming and all, so many of us are aware that as being a huge part of our world right now,” said Pierce. “So, this first song [of the show] is sort of an antidote to that because it is about appreciating the Earth…That’s something that’s on women’s minds I think, big time.
We always sing a song about some sort of gay rights kind of thing, considering that to be a feminist issue and a women’s issue,” she said. “We have song about a young woman who goes to her high school [prom] with a girl from another high school. It’s a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful song.”
Like the varying ages of the choir, the issues covered aren’t only 21st century topics.
“Gay Dalzell is singing, she’s sung with us before…She’s singing a song called ‘Bread and Roses.’ It’s an old labor song that was sung in the labor strike in Lawrence Mass., in 1912,” said Pierce. “It’s basically saying, ‘We need wages. We need housing. And we also need roses.’”
In the true nature of a Greek Muse, the choir is also performing poems transformed into songs. Expect pieces from classic female poets such as Emily Dickinson, as well as lesser-known males, such as Jack Manno’s “Earth Blessing.”
The Calliope Feminist Choir don’t just sing messages of acceptance, the group also practices it. Admission for the show is on a sliding scale of $10-50 and $2-10 for those with limited income. Tickets are available for purchase from Calliope members, Blue Eagle Music and Hyacinth Bean Florist (540 W. Union).
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, so make sure to plan your own odyssey to ARTS/West and be inspired by the Muse that is Calliope Feminist Choir.
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