The Gonzaga music department is celebrating suffrage on stage

Dr. Amy Porter works with Joshua Shank and Timothy Westerhaus to bring together the three GU choirs. 

A century ago, women gained the right to vote when the 19th Amendment was ratified in the United States Constitution. This Friday, Gonzaga’s music department is celebrating this victory to Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center with a women’s suffrage choir performance called “The 19th: For Her, For All.”  

From the efforts of music lecturers Amy Porter and Joshua Shank and the director of choirs and vocal studies Timothy Westerhaus, all three of GU’s choirs are coming together to take the audience on a journey as they explore a number of aspects related to women’s suffrage. 

This has been a work in progress among the three GU choral ensembles since the beginning of the semester. 

Sophomore Olivia Howe, a member of the Concert Choir Council, finds this year's choir performance to be a unique experience for the audience, as well as other choir members. 

“This makes people compelled to see and explore ways that we could tell this story and make them think before we say anything,” Howe said. 

There will be a series of visuals, including roses, placards and sashes in historical colors of purple, white and gold to help prompt the storytelling element. 

There will be a number of songs directly from the Library of Congress that were used a century ago to convince the population that women are just as capable of voting as men. 

The second half of the performance is going to be focused on a broader spectrum of issues pertaining to ways citizens can become more socially aware. 

Australian composer and choral activist for social justice Melissa Dunphy will also come to the stage.

Dunphy has three pieces featured in the second half of the performance, when she will also be speaking on other social justice issues, both during the performance and in music composition classes leading up to the event. 

“Having her there to guide us through her creative process will be great,” Howe said. 

The choir was challenged to navigate heavy topics and find a way to deliver them in a creative and effective way, while avoiding being too negative and taking away from the celebratory focus of the performance.

“This has been a bit of a challenge because we all have our blind spots,” Westerhaus said. 

It may be easy to point out the negative aspects of the situation, but the performance is meant to serve as a celebration and call to action. 

There are tough talking points to confront about the women’s suffrage movement: where it started, how it changed and where contemporary society is moving. 

The goal of this performance is to acknowledge the movement's evolution and reflect on where society is heading with the future of social justice issues.

Kayla Friedrich is a staff writer.

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