Vox Femina PHOTO: Courtesy of Boston Court (Vox Femina)

'We the People'

Vox Femina show at Boston Court focuses on equality

By Carl Kozlowski 11/03/2011

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Boston Court Theatre patrons are in for an evening of music with a message with the premiere of “And Justice for All,” presented by Los Angeles-based, all-female chorale Vox Femina.
 
Aimed at raising awareness of issues facing women, the production includes the premiere of the multimedia production “We the People” by Los Angeles composer Mark Koval, which centers on marriage equality and the battle over gay rights.
 
According to Mark Saltzman, Boston Court’s artistic director for music, “Vox Femina is an all-women’s chorale that commissions new work that’s very socially conscious and tends to do thematic concerts, yet is very eclectic. This concert,” Saltzman continues, “is about justice, peace and immigration, and all the work centers around those themes. They’ve commissioned some of the most well-known choral composers in the country to do works for them as premieres.”
 
Started in 1997, Vox Femina began as a 21-woman ensemble that performed as a guest artist with the Los Angeles Gay Mens’ Chorus. Since then, it has grown into a popular force in its own right, with 35 present members singing under director Iris Levine. The chorus doesn’t simply sing at its performances, but also performs choreographed movements and encourages audience interaction. Saltzman notes that it was the group’s “very contemporary quality” that caught his attention. 
 
“The first half of the show is a combination of things that makes a journey that starts with ‘Ella’s Song,’ from ‘Honey on the Rock,’” says Saltzman. “The text is ‘We Believe in Freedom’ and goes through a historic journey of people on the path to freedom, ending with the equality piece by Koval.
 
“It has a spiritual part called ‘Stand Up On the Rock,’ and a piece called ‘Fences’ that’s very interesting as you go through slavery and the boundaries we create between people,” Saltzman goes on. “It’s inspired by a woman astronaut, Sally Ride, who put in her report that every astronaut sees no borders, frontiers or boundaries on Earth from space.”
 
While “Fences” is a lively number, with “West Side Story”-style Latin rhythms, other songs in “And Justice for All” use vibraphone and electronic voices, as well as a “ghost chorus.” 
 
Other hallmarks of the show include Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and an Irving Berlin composition based on the Statue of Liberty’s famous inscription inspired by Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” –– "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 
 
All told, the epic span of the material encompasses the history of human migration –– from Moses escaping Egypt to American 
slavery to current battles over immigration — all in the first act. Koval’s 30-minute “We the People” segment closes the show with a multimedia bang. 
 
“Mark is committed to doing something about equality, which is still pretty controversial, and this is nice,” says Saltzman. Even some of the five-section piece is called ‘How Much Is Equal?’ while another is ‘The Colors of Love,’ featuring three cellists, a narrator and projected imagery, he says.

Vox Femina presents “And Justice For All” at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Branson Theatre of the Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, $20 for students. Call (626) 683-6883 or visit bostoncourt.com.

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