Part of a personal project taking portraits of choristers.
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Ella. Taken during quarantine over FaceTime.
Young Women’s Chorus has been an incredible community in my life over the past six years. It has given me the opportunity to meet incredible people while doing something I love. Even though my last season in YWC was different than expected and we couldn’t physically be together or even truly sing together as a chorus, I was so impressed in how this group gathered, even in times of difficulty, and came together as a community.
Part of a personal project taking portraits of choristers.
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Phoebe. Taken during quarantine over FaceTime.
In the last five years my experience in choir has taught me how to trust and love myself, how to lean on others when I need to, and how to uplift fellow women and friends to help them find their inner strength and power. During my time in this organization I found another family and made friendships that will last a lifetime. The deep sense of sisterhood that the Young Women’s Chorus has given me will not soon be forgotten, and I hope to sing with my fellow choristers again in the years to come.
Part of a personal project taking portraits of choristers.
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Hannah. Taken during quarantine over FaceTime.
The time I’ve spent with the Young Women’s Chorus has been invaluable. No matter how many years I’ve come back to sing with the chorus, the wonder and excitement of being among so many genuine, passionate, and committed singers has never faded. The community I’ve found at YWC is truly unique; nowhere else have I felt so constantly loved and cared for, and so empowered to do the same for those around me.
The recent shelter-in-place period has made me realize just how special and powerful it is to sing together. There is indescribable beauty in the moments when the harmonies finally click and the separate parts fit just right, a beauty that we unfortunately can’t quite recreate over Zoom… However, as difficult as it has been to adapt to this new situation at times, YWC gives me unwavering hope for the future. I have hope knowing that our music can always find a way to stay alive and flowing, even if that means logging onto a call instead of signing in with the front desk.
After so many years with YWC, I can’t imagine stepping into my next chapter of life without music. Though I remain unsure about many aspects of my future, I know that the healing and comfort of singing with YWC will always stay with me, and inspire me to continue sharing messages and stories through song
Part of a personal project while on tour in South Africa.
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Maxine. Photo taken in Cape Town, South Africa.
For the past seven years, choir has been an anchor and a joy in my life. I have been singing with the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco for five years, and have had the opportunity to perform beautiful and powerful music all over the country and the world. Being involved in choir has taught me invaluable lessons in musicianship, technique and teamwork.
Choral music requires dozens, sometimes hundreds, of voices to mesh perfectly in order to collectively create something beautiful. Sometimes, the creative achievement is in finding a perfect unison of voices. Other times, the power is in the intricacies of the harmonies. What resonates most for me are pieces where the music’s impact is felt through a complex layering of harmonies, like in Libby Larsen’s, The Womanly Song of God. Performing this piece is a gift. I’ve been lucky enough to have performed this song during two different concert seasons and with each rehearsal and each performance, I am reminded of the healing that music can bring to the world. I feel the majesty of the music resonate within me, within the space, and within the audience. Eight-part vocal harmonies weave with overlapping lines of vocal and body percussion in order to construct a wall of lush, delicate yet powerful sound. It reminds us, the singers, of the awe-inspiring force that lives within us. Letting my voice meld into the compelling whole makes me feel utterly free.
Part of a personal project while on tour in South Africa. What piece of music have you learned to love after spending more time with it?
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Sarah. Photo taken in Cape Town, South Africa before the final tour concert.
Something choir has given me that I’m incredibly thankful for is a deeper appreciation of music; not just choral music, but all music. I’ve learned that, in order to really get to know a piece of music that’s not a pop song, a piece of music that is maybe harder to love, you have to spend time with it. The pieces we’ve sung that I love the most are also some of the most difficult, but I love them because I’ve spent countless hours of my life devoted to understanding them, memorizing them, and learning them from the inside out.
An example of this that I have fond memories of is Angelus ad Pastores by Sulpitia Cesis. At first, I thought it was a typical religious piece of choral music, and a bit boring. After spending a whole year with it, and performing it at Carnegie Hall, I really began to appreciate its subtle complexities and beauty. If I hadn’t spent all that time learning and performing it, I never would have realized what a wonderful piece it is. Now I know that to truly appreciate a work of art, you have to put in the effort and the hours to fully understand it.
Choir has also taught me the power of diligence. With enough practice, anything can be achieved, whether it’s learning a language or memorizing a whole opera. But aside from musical skills, choir has also given me something that I’m incredibly grateful for: a community. A group of like-minded people I know I can rely on, who will help me learn a piece or translate a German menu in Austria. I’ve made what I’m sure are life-long friends, who I never would have met without this organization.
Part of a personal project while on tour in South Africa. Has singing in a chorus changed you?
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Mila. Photo taken at Glentana, South Africa. The Young Women’s Chorus stopped here on a travel day to feel the Indian Ocean and spot some whales.
These past 6 years of being involved with YWCP have provided me with a safe place to grow, learn, and sing, for which I am eternally grateful. I first joined this organization in 8th grade, 13 years old in Allegro. At the end of the first year I was convinced to audition for YWC and, to my surprise, made it in! After spending so much time listening for little strains of music to come swirling and tumbling up the stairs from the room where that powerful group of women sang together, I was finally going to be one of them, I could sing with them. I was one of those incredible young women, it felt unbelievable, scary, and exhilarating all at once. I didn’t know that I had embarked on a journey of intense self realization and that this choir would be largely responsible for leading me to become a motivated, matured, and empowered young adult.
There is immense value in having something carry through so many different stages of your life so you can see how it changes you but also, how you change it. For me, it was my years in the Young Women’s Choral Projects. The effect this choir has had on me is incalculable, the person I’ve become is so different from who I was on my first day in this program. Although it sometimes feels like I’m a completely new person, I’d like to think I kept some of the old me too. I still laugh a lot, dance and sing, and stumble over my words sometimes when I get too excited. But through choir I’ve also found new and genuine happiness, a mature sense of self, and have become stronger mentally. And I think I’m finally starting to figure out how all of this works in collaboration to make me the most unique and best version of myself. I have always felt like I needed to section off all the different facets of my being, and only show them to individual groups. In choir I learned that I can be all of these things at once, I can be silly and also serious, spontaneous and thought out, this realization set me on the path towards being the authentic me with everyone, something I struggled with since elementary school.
Part of a personal project while on tour in South Africa. Do you have any special memories of going on choir tours?
Young Women’s Chorus member and graduating senior, Olivia. Photo taken at BBQ dinner inside Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The Chorus spent the day in open vehicle game drives.
My time in choir has been truly inspiring and incredibly rewarding. I have grown so much as an individual these past few years, becoming more confident in my abilities as a vocalist and hardworking as a member of a high-performing group. Choir has provided me the ability to get outside my comfort zone and learn new and challenging music, and has given me a greater appreciation for choral music. The friends that I have made over my six years in YWCP have grown to be some of my best friends and I love that we share such a strong bond thanks to our mutual love of music.
As a member of YWC, I have also been given the privilege to travel with the choir on tour and bring the music we have learned to a different part of the world. The time spent on tour is always so inspiring and getting to travel with such an amazing group and share such amazing music is one of my favorite parts of YWC. Our first concert in South Africa, a joint concert with local choirs in Soweto was by far one of my favorite performances. The sound and energy in the room as we felt the audience’s excitement fill the room was incredible and such a unique and special experience. I love YWCP and I am extremely grateful to choir for helping me grow both as a singer and a young woman, ready to take on the world.
Part of a personal project while on tour in South Africa. Has singing in a chorus made you who you are today?
Young Women’s Chorus charter member and graduating senior, Michelle. Photo taken at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Soweto, South Africa. The Young Women’s Chorus participated in Sunday morning service.
“Chorus has been a place where I have grown and developed into the person I am today. I’ve had so many amazing experiences touring around the world with the chorus and have created many life-long friendships with those around me. I truly could not have imagined my last 7 years without chorus. It has been such a grounding force for me and a place where I have been able to share my passion for music with others. I continue to sing not only because of my love of music but also because of the supportive and loving community the girls in this chorus have created. This community has taught me how to be my best self and has encouraged me to lift up those around me as well.”
“YWC has also helped me gain an understanding of the uniting and expressive force that music brings. Whenever we go on tour, I am amazed by the energy and response from the audiences. To see how our singing resonates with people from all around the world gives me hope and joy. YWC has truly opened my heart and mind to new experiences and friendships, and I am forever grateful for the impact this has had on my life.”
Erol Efendioglu – San Francisco Botanical Garden
The next portrait from an ongoing personal project.
Native Sons and Daughters is a photo series that tells a story of the people that live in the city in which they grew up. Each subject chooses a portrait location that is meaningful to them in some way and represents their own connection to the city.
Erol chose to take his portrait at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. He recalled to me how he used to sneak in after hours with his friends to meet at the benches in the Redwood Grove.
Located in Golden Gate Park, Strybing Arboretum opened in 1940. The Garden encompasses 55 acres and contains nearly 9,000 different kinds of plants from around the world. In 2004 the name was changed to San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum.
I grew up in the Inner Sunset district, and live in Polk Gulch now. I attended Montessori pre-school, Town School for Boys from Kindergarten to 8th grade, Lowell High School, and then UC Santa Cruz.
I chose the Botanical Garden because it was the best secret hang out spot for me and my friends in high school when we wanted to get out of the house. We developed a great game of “King of the Hill” on the benches. Basically, the last person left standing on a bench won.
The last entry from a personal project while on tour last month in New York. Who would you be today if not for chorus?
Young Women’s Chorus charter member and graduating senior, Tamlyn. Photo taken before the performance in Carnegie Hall.
“I would not be the person I am today without the Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco. I remember walking into the audition room at only twelve years old, a middle schooler, terrified of messing up, and doubting that I would be accepted. Now, I have walked out of the rehearsal room forever, eighteen years old, a high school graduate, still terrified of messing up, but knowing that chorus has changed me forever.
Chorus has given me a voice. It has increased my confidence in my abilities in a world that seeks to tear teenage girls apart. It has helped me realize my power. Through chorus I know that I have the ability to transform others. Because of this chorus I have learned that music is unlike anything else on earth. It has powers beyond explanation. Music can move people to tears, bring people together, and can undoubtedly change the world.”