Four giggling teens sit fidgeting in the front row of the Kilworth Memorial Chapel while 70 women file on stage past a drum kit and electric bass. The audience starts to applaud and continues until the very last choir member is on stage. One of the teens looks at her program, counts the songs and whispers to the boy next to her, “After the fifth song!” It’s a Friday night in Tacoma, and Soromundi, Lesbian Chorus of Eugene is on the road, bringing songs and stories to northwest cities in support of LGBTQ youth. Soromundi’s Be the Change tour started with a warm-up concert at Lane Community College in February and will officially end at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater on Saturday, May 18th. Soromundi was started in 1989 in Cultural Services Manager Karm Hagedorn’s living room. Since then the choir has grown to over 100 members, including city staffers Anne Donohue and Amber Dennis.
“There is a growing understanding nationwide that LGBTQ youth are socially marginalized and in need of support and visibility. All youth are at risk of being bullied or harassed, but LGBTQ students face particularly hostile environments,” says Soromundi President Amber Smith. She notes that suicide rates continue to be high in these at-risk groups. “We want to show up for these kids,” says Smith. “The tour is designed to create connections, increase community education, and build community support for diversity.”
To prepare for the show, choir members gathered into groups by age and talked about what it was like when they were younger, how things are different now and what it means to “be the change” in the world. Youth groups in tour stop cities Eugene, Portland, Tacoma and Seattle did the same process. The experiences of all the participants were then combined to create stories, read by choir members, which are woven in between the songs throughout the concert. If there are youth volunteers brave enough to read, as there are in Tacoma, they will anxiously await their turn to head for the stage and pick a story.
As the choir finishes the final notes of the fifth song, one of the girls in the front row walks the stairs to the stage, opens a book and reads at the microphone. “When my best friend came out to her dad in senior year. . .” Her hands are shaking but she’s not alone - there are 70 women who stand behind her.
Soromundi’s third CD, Love Rescue Me, was released last year. Tickets for Soromundi's Be the Change concert, on Saturday, May 17 at the Hult Center.