Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Nancy Pierce plays the piano as the Calliope Feminist Choir sings along on Monday.

Calliope Feminist Choir conveys message of justice for women through song

For 25 years, Calliope Feminist Choir has brought its unique message in the form of song to the rich Appalachian area of Southeastern Ohio.

The Calliope Feminist Choir does not perform much outside of Athens, but it has gone to Nelsonville and will be traveling to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail, where it will sing for the women there, in December and February. Its public concert will be held May 11 and 12 at ARTS/West.

The choir named itself after the Greek goddess of music, song and dance. Calliope means “beautiful-voiced,” and when a member of the choir suggested it be named after her when the group was just starting out, it went with it.

“Five or six years after we decided to name our group Calliope, we attended a festival that had other choirs like us,” Nancy Pierce, assistant director and accompanist, said. “When we came back from the festival, members decided they wanted to add ‘feminist choir’ to the name.”

The group’s staple color, purple, also blossomed from feminist roots. Purple was widely worn by feminists during the suffrage movement. Calliope also supports people who identify as LGBT, so its wardrobe is based off its support for the gay rights movement.

The choir began to encompass a lot of what it believes women want in the world into its songs. Many of its songs convey messages of justice and feminist history.

“We sing about environmental, racial, social and economic justice,” Pierce said. “We also always sing about something historical to be cognisant of feminist history and women’s work through time.”

Calliope also includes songs honoring women’s lives that are composed or arranged primarily by women. Members sing about peace, justice and the health of the planet while striving for beauty in vocal production and musical expression. 

Kathy Kropf has been a member of Calliope since the early 2000s and is a firm believer that inclusivity is a big part of being a feminist choir. 

“Our mission says we welcome all women singers, but anyone, no matter what they identify as, who can sing in our range are welcome to sing with us,” Kropf said.

There have been instances where the choir will change certain pronouns in songs from ‘he’ to ‘she’ to fit its feminist views. Calliope crosses many different genres of music such as folk and gospel, but no matter what type of sound it is, its songs always have a message to tell.

In the years that Kropf has sung with Calliope, she has seen significant growth in the way the choir works with one another and its focus on technique.

“As a choir, we’ve focused a lot more on our pronunciation, breathing, blending and tone,” Kropf said. “We’re really able to hear each other more and listen to one another’s sound.”

The choir is still an easygoing group of women with a loose audition process so as to include as many women who want to sing.

“Right now we’re around 30 members, but we’ve had singers ranging from as young as high school age,” Kropf said. “There’s been some exceptions in the past to include younger girls because of how popular it is to have mothers and daughters who want to sing together.”

Debra Spangler, the director of Calliope, was one of those moms who joined Calliope with her daughter.

“My daughter and I had gone to one of Calliope’s concerts and just loved it,” Spangler said. “There were so many people we recognized from the community and we wanted to be a part of that.”

When Spangler first attended a Calliope concert, she cried all the way through it. She had heard about the choir for years, but it wasn’t until then that she knew she had to be a part of it. Spangler appreciates the outlet of making music with women who she enjoys getting to see every week.

“It’s kind of like church for me,” Spangler said. “The community is a big reason why people are a part of Calliope. These are the people who would notice if something’s going on in my life, and I think that’s a pretty unique part of it.”


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH