Our First Year
GRWC began in September of 1996 as a handful of women concerned that music composed or arranged by women was rarely performed in Grand Rapids. So on January 12, 1997, 12 women with a great desire to sing performed at Fountain Street Church.
The audience's response encouraged us, and by Jan. 27, our roster included 22 singers and an accompanist. We were led by Lori Tennenhouse, our founding artistic director.
The first year ended with our inaugural spring concert, May 10, 1997, at the Ladies Literary Club. We performed songs in Hebrew, Swahili, Spanish, and English.
It had been an incredible start, and we felt ready to take the next step: Apply for non-profit status, which allowed us to fund ourselves.
Our Second Year
By the time our second annual spring concert arrived, May 9, 1998, we had 30 women joining voices before an audience of 250. Our friends and volunteers in the audience heard songs sung in Bulgarian, Italian, French, Hebrew, Iroquois, Latvian, Spanish, Portuguese, Zulu and some Gospel. We were accompanied by piano, flute, guitar, cello and African drum.
The Third Season
During our third season, we moved into the community, performing at Schuler Books, Bygones Antiques, Holiday Fest, Soup's On, and at a National Aids Day Conference.
To the Future
Since then, we've become involved in the community more than ever, performing concerts, hosting workshops; commissioning and performing works by women composers. GRWC took the lead in organizing and underwriting a fundraiser to help raise awareness and fight breast cancer.
We partnered with two local non-profit organizations and performed the oratorio, "Where I Live," by Diane Benjamin.
In the summer of 2001 we hosted the 8th International Sister Singer Network Festival, bringing 22 women's choruses to Royce Auditiorium, and then traveled to Cinncinnati the next summer to perform at the GALA Choruses Regional Choral Festival.
After being very well received in Cinncinnati, we were one of 3 choruses to perform at the National Women's Music Festival in June of 2003. It was the first time in the 29 years of the Festival that they added choral music to the mainstage.
In the Spring of 2004, with the help of Nokomis Foundation, we were able to produce in Grand Rapids a fabulous collaborative concert "Echoes of Africa" with Giwayen Mata,an award-winning, dynamic, soul-stirring, all-sistah dance, percussion, and vocal ensemble from Atlanta. We partnered with the Girl Scouts of Michigan Trails and the Girls at Risk program at the YWCA to provide an after-school workshop in African dance and drumming where 60 youth were able to enjoy and learn from Giwayen Mata. We also provided another workshop for adult community members, many of which ended up on stage during the concert. Our goals include more collaborations with other choruses, both in and outside Grand Rapids, and providing continuing music education for our members and our community.