With the current state of American politics in disarray, it’s easy to feel cynical and apathetic. Years ago , our two-system parties would fight each other on policy during the day yet still break bread and remain cordial to one another outside of their chambers. Now, our politicians and our country draw enemy lines, cease to compromise, and escalate simple disagreements to shouting matches.
Judith Clurman, Essential Voices USA, and music arranger David Chase have provided a desperately needed balm of relief with the release of their exquisite new album, Washington Women. The 12-track collection gathers inspiring words from 16 high profile women from both sides of the aisle who have left their imprint through their experiences of working in the nation’s capital.
Many notable names appear, particularly those from recent history and current representatives: Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (“We Not Only Dream”), Secretary of State and immigrant Madeleine Albright (“It Took Me Quite a Long Time”), First Ladies Laura Bush (“We Pride Ourselves”) and Barbara Bush (“Believe”) and current Supreme court Justice Elena Kagan (“For Centuries Now”).
But the album insightfully reaches further into political archives, unearthing words from powerful ladies whose work may not be as familiar to younger listeners: First Lady Betty Ford’s 1975 speech at the International Women’s Year Conference is combined with quotes from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the ubiquitous Hillary Rodham Clinton (“Freedom”). Shirley Anita Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to U.S. congress re-emerges (“In the Field of Equal Rights”), along with Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both houses of the U.S. congress.
Clurman’s Essential Voices USA are in usual fine form here, clearly enunciating the text (a too often forgotten but deeply important skill both for soloists and choirs). They are accompanied by top shelf musicians, Lee Musiker (piano) and Raman Ramakrishnan on cello.
Washington Women premiered earlier this year with a live performance on National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concert series and a live performance is planned in March 2023 for International Women’s Day.
In a recent press release, Clurman reflected on the album. “With Washington Women, I have fulfilled a promise to myself to have a choral piece written that honors the special women who changed or are changing the world today. Their texts speak to our hearts and minds. It is my hope that these pieces will inspire all people to speak out with the dignity and integrity, as these sixteen women have done.”
The album, which is available on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music) is an ideal pick-me up for anyone who feels deflated and defeated by political banter. It reaffirms civic pride, stirs patriotism, rewards our country’s accomplishments, and reveals bright possibilities when we adhere to our values. Yet it does so in a manner that is never nationalistic, only optimistic.
Later this week, Essential Voices USA, along with stage stars Nikki Renée Daniels, Jordan Donica, Matt Doyle, and Melissa Errico will join the New York Pops Orchestra for a night of Broadway Blockbusters at Carnegie Hall. For tickets and information, click here.