Founded by Jane Clark, Juliet Jackson and Cindy Sohn in 1993 to be a chorus with a message, CHARIS – The St. Louis Women’s Chorus is a lesbian chorus, open to all women. Our members differ in age, size, ethnic background, and abilities, but share a goal to seek musical excellence, voice messages of social justice, and create a fun and supportive place for all women. We are led by Dr. Stuart Chapman Hill, Artistic Director of CHARIS since May 2017.
CHARIS prides itself on the diversity of its membership, program and audience. CHARIS comprises 25-40 women varying in age from 16 to 66. We represent a variety of ethnicities, sexual orientations, economic situations, and abilities and disabilities. Our programs have included a wide repertoire including pop, classical, spirituals, and world music. We have collaborated with other choruses, individual guest artists, and with other community arts and social services organizations. We market ourselves to the entire St. Louis metropolitan community and choose venues that are accessible and easy to reach by public transportation.
CHARIS offers a diverse repertoire and varied performance themes. Twice we have created concerts for families to include children in our performances, collaborating first with Stella Maris Early Childhood Center, and later with Family Tree, a support group for lesbian and gay parents. CHARIS has presented Broadway reviews with full choreography, and scripted performances for Women’s History Month with historical and contemporary roles played by local Equity actresses. Several times in its past CHARIS performed cabaret-style concerts with accomplished guest artists including Denise Thimes, Kim Massie, nationally known singer and activist Holly Near, and comedienne and entertainer Lisa Koch.
Other highlights of our history include partnering with St. Louis PFLAG and the Gateway Men’s Chorus to present the narrated choral work, “Prayers for Bobby,” which poignantly addresses the tragic issue of suicide among GLBTQ adolescents. CHARIS proudly performed before 3,000 singers and artistic directors in Tampa, Florida, at the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) Festival in 1996. In both 1996 and 1997 CHARIS performed as part of “St. Louis Sings,” a choral festival celebrating the diversity of the area’s many choruses, at Powell Symphony Hall. In June 2001 CHARIS collaborated with the Gateway Men’s Chorus to perform the St. Louis premiere of “Sing for the Cure,” a 10-movement song cycle for eight-part chorus and full orchestra commissioned by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Stretching its artistic wings, CHARIS collaborated with Gash-Voigt Dance Theatre to present an original work entitled Changing Woman in May 2002. In February 2006 CHARIS performed in “Sounds of Acceptance,” a concert produced by the Human Rights Campaign. In 2007, members of CHARIS created and produced “The Vegans of Provincetown”, an elaborate musical based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance”.
St. Louis has many choruses. However, none of them share the mission of CHARIS or the opportunity for community involvement. Because CHARIS addresses issues of concern to women in general and lesbians in particular, we offer a unique view of both everyday issues and global concerns. Our concerts offer a chance for CHARIS to challenge ideas or stereotypes that people might have about women or lesbians, age, race, or any other “difference.” Our concerts also offer a special opportunity for our audience members to see and hear their own ideas and feelings expressed by our chorus. We take pride in the fact that many people have told us that they left with a different, more positive view of the gay and lesbian community after attending one of our performances.