Maren L. Amdal was Calliope’s director for nearly seven years prior to her move to the West Coast in summer 2012. She recalls many beautiful transitions during her tenure with the Chorus. Here, she shares some of those memories.
“In the beginning, I was met by a small, eager but nervous group of women who were passionate about their organization and its mission. It was a reflection for me of my abilities as a music director; inexperienced but eager, a little nervous but excited and motivated by the commitment and passion of the singers. Throughout my time with Calliope, we all grew as artists, as a musicians, and as people. When we had grown to nearly 40 singers and a regular accompanist, the chorus had a very different nature; When we were a more intimate, a capella group, our parts relied more on one another and tightened our bonds. Everything ebbs and flows. At times, we sung just six or seven, and at times as many as 38 on stage. But, it was never more beautiful then when we were all attending the core mission: promoting social change through song.
“My favorite memories are of people and pieces. All the Sweet Honey in the Rock music we ever sang brings me great joy. I fell in love with the sweeping lines of Gwyneth Walker and programmed three of her pieces into a literature and literacy concert, where I also really enjoyed leading improvisational harmonies especially when we backed Desdamona and her powerful spoken-word pieces. The fun and challenge of singing in different languages was always fulfilling–I especially loved our African and Freedom music program. What is fondly called the Breast Cancer Oratorio, ‘Where I Live’ was one of the most powerful pieces I’ve ever heard, and I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to perform it with such a strong group of singers. And, of course, I love the Calliope ‘core’ literature: ‘Proud by Practicing,’ ‘Everything Possible,’ ‘Singing for our Lives,’ ‘Every Woman,’ ‘Love in the Kitchen,’ ‘Every Long Journey.’ … Not to mention the journal and the birthday song! So many, many beautiful songs. I truly love every one of the many women whom I had the honor to direct. I respect all of these singers, who risked vulnerability and faced their fears by rehearsing and performing with this group. The growth we each experienced through our time with Calliope is what makes this group the strong community it is today. We’ve ebbed and we’ve flowed; we’ve had strong solid performances and have had those where we were less together, more distracted. Our personal lives have changed, too. Health, work and family changes have affected us individually and as a group. But the strong bonds of friendship, of community, are what will bring Calliope through another 35 years, and beyond.
“Every concert I programmed included pieces to make the audience think, to laugh, to cry; songs to challenge singers and give them joy. And at the end of each concert, I always found center in the beautiful Bill Douglas setting of ‘Deep Peace.’
Deep Peace of the running wave to you.
Deep Peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep Peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep Peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep Peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace to you.”