45 Years of "Slavs"
Hi friends and fans --
We birds are all just returning to our normal lives after one of the fullest, funnest weekends of music last week: The 45th anniversary reunion of the Yale Women's Slavic Chorus.
The Slavic Chorus, or the "Slavs," as we all lovingly refer to the group, was founded in 1969--the very first year that women were admitted to Yale as undergraduates. They have been holding reunions for all alumnae every few years ever since. We met some of the women who were singers in 1969 at the reunion, along with over 100 other alumnae from across the 45 years of the chorus's existence.
Here's a picture of the Yale Slavic Chorus from 1977, featuring some of the ladies we met last weekend:
Nila, Rachel and I met in "Slavs" in 2009, and we sang together in the chorus for 3 years. That's the secret (I think) behind the magic of our three voices working so well together even though The Nightingale Trio is a relatively new ensemble -- we'd really been working on it together for all those years already. We also learned this music in the oral tradition -- from older Slavs who had in turn learned from their predecessors. We each came in as a new singer and were challenged by the experienced members to take solos, learn challenging songs, and get better and better at sounding Bulgarian.
I often like to think about the way that music is transporting -- the songs, harmonies, and stories that surround them are connected to people in distant places and distant times. Some of those people are the village women and poets who composed the songs; some are the audience members we have talked to over the years; and some are these Yale Slavic Chorus singers who came before us and sang the same songs.
Talk about transporting. For the women in the early years of Slavs, the Chorus was a women-filled ensemble on a campus where women numbered 490 out of 4586 undergraduates (I looked it up), and they sang songs from Yugoslavia, Russia, and Bulgaria when the Iron Curtain was part of global politics. This music, and the act of coming together to craft it, surely transported them to a world where paradigms were different, and where women's voices rang out.
That magic has percolated into our singing, even decades later. As a Trio we owe so much to these women in Slavs; both to the trailblazers and to those who have continued it for 45 years. At the reunion, some of the current students singing in Slavs invited us to sing a set for all the alumnae at our party. It's an honor to think that after all we've learned from them that they would want to listen to us now!
What an awesome experience. So here's to the Slavs, and to 45 more years (at least).
-- Sarah (Nightingale #3)
(thanks to Ann Mackey and Celia Rostow for pictures)