Choirs have always fascinated me. Whether the songs are ancient, gospel or secular, I admire and appreciate the talent and cooperation it takes to sing well and honor the musical legacy. The blending of many different voices, working together to accomplish a moving performance is an impressive feat.
Bellingham and Whatcom County offer performances by many different chorale groups throughout the year. But one of Bellingham’s newest choirs has almost instantly become one of its most popular. Vox Pacifica, a nonprofit advanced soprano and alto choir, performs a quality choral repertoire written specifically for women’s choirs.
Vox Pacifica concerts are often different than what one might expect from a typical choir concert. Rather than music written in Latin long ago, their focus is often on contemporary music written by female composers and poets in the last 10 to 20 years. Much of the music is chosen for the message in the lyrics, speaking to women’s issues and what it’s like living as a woman in this country. Although the choir is open to all genders, those that sing soprano and alto are often women.
I had the pleasure of talking with Vox Pacifica Artisitc Director Wendy Bloom about the choir’s inception, repertoire and upcoming season of song.
Choir Origins & A Welcoming Community
Wendy’s daughter, Amanda Bloom, moved to Bellingham about 15 years ago and was followed a few years later by her sister Cassidy. Both are singers and performers themselves. Locals might remember their band from way back in 2012, City of Lost Children. Both have performed in a variety of capacities in the area over the years at local music venues and cabaret performances. Amanda has been performing more recently around the country with Von Wildenhaus.
Although Bellingham has 90,000 residents and growing, it is still a small town in many ways—especially among the arts community. I met Wendy’s daughter Cassidy while performing in a play written by her husband, writer and performer Chris Moye, at Bellingham’s IDiOM Theatre at Sylvia Center for the Arts.
It was because of her talented daughters that Wendy Bloom discovered Bellingham. Three years ago Wendy chose Whatcom County as her new home so she could be closer to them. She relocated to Bellingham from Ann Arbor Michigan where she performed for more than two decades in choirs and operas, as a soloist with symphonies and in musical theater and cabaret all over the country. She also performed as alto soloist and her quartet, SATB, toured extensively together for 15 years. She was also a regular singer with Conspirare in Austin, Texas, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Audivi Vocem in Ann Arbor and Sounding Light in Birmingham, Michigan.
Once Wendy landed in Bellingham she joined the Bellingham Chamber Chorale, with whom she continues to perform. It was in 2018 that she was approached by other members of the Chorale who were eager to start a new women’s choir. Wendy had not yet sung in or directed a women’s choir so she was excited to explore this new opportunity.
To get acquainted with the community, she offered a voice workshop that over 40 women attended.
Vox Pacifica’s focus was developed and driven by the women singers in the community. Their mission: to empower and inspire singers and audiences through quality choral music written for women’s choirs. Through their performance, they share joy, embrace diversity and build community.
Wendy chooses music for Vox Pacifica that is universal, pieces that will hopefully speak to everyone, based on their lyrics. The inspiring, empowering pieces include themes of social justice and women’s issues. Each performance is infused with the feelings of the women as they sing about these important issues that speak to them and to many women living in this interesting time in our country’s history.
At Vox Pacifica’s first auditions in the Fall of 2018, many women who had once performed with the now defunct women’s choir, Allegra, turned out and were welcomed. Many have sung together for decades in other local groups and choirs.
Their first, more intimate performances in Winter 2018/19, with a group of 20 advanced soprano and alto singers, sold out quickly. Vox now performs more shows in larger venues and they are looking forward to presenting a strong, vibrant repertoire in their second season.
2019 – 2020 Season
Because this choir is made up of 20 to 30 advanced singers with years of experience, the music selection is more challenging and diverse. The general public and those with an experienced ear will appreciate these exceptional performances.
Wintersong, Dec. 7 & 8, First Congregational Church
Wintersong will address the themes of home, peace, and connection through the music of Ola Gjeilo, Joan Szymko, Gwyneth Walker, and Stephen Paulus. You don’t have to practice or follow a religion to appreciate its musical heritage. The choir will also perform Benjamin Britten’s much beloved Ceremony of Carols with guest soloist Teresa Lenssen, accompanied on harp by Alishia Joubert, along with several traditional Hanukkah songs beautifully arranged by Charles Baker.
The Ceremony of Carols is a women’s choir staple composed in 1942 specifically for Christmas. The text is in Middle English and promises to be full of light and beauty. Wendy mentioned that one of its eleven movements rejoices in the idea that if Eve hadn’t been tempted and taken the apple in the Garden of Eden, we would never have been blessed with Mary. As Wendy points out, even Middle English poetry has hints of a feminist bent.
Presented at the First Congregation Church, this venue is large with 250+ seats but also likely to sell out in advance. Wendy mentioned that the church has incredible acoustics so Wendy and the women of Vox love to perform there.
Vox & Friends: Uncorked! A Musical Cabaret, February 15 & 16, Sylvia Center for the Arts
For 15 years in Ann Arbor, Wendy was the artistic director for a popular cabaret called Wine, Women and Song. Vox has rekindled that cabaret spirit in Vox and Friends Uncorked! They’ll invite experienced cabaret soloists to sing with the choir about world, women’s and gender issues, bad boyfriends and so much more.
As the name suggests, wine from local vintners will be included in the price of your ticket.
Our Stories Go On, May 8 & 9, First Congregational Church
Purposely scheduled near the Mother’s Day holiday, Our Stories Go On’s theme will be mother- and sister-centric, celebrating families and the relationships within them. All poetry and music will also be by women composers and writers.
Be sure to include this extraordinary women’s choir in your next visit to Bellingham and Whatcom County. You’ll leave feeling joyfully elevated and perhaps humming a new tune too.