Our Stars – Annie Donnellon, The World Choir Games

by Annie Donnellon

In the early part of July 2012, over 360 choirs from over 64 nations gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, to compete for world championships. The festivities began on the 4th of July. The US bank arena was flooded with diverse people, glorious music, immense fireworks, and energy beyond all bounds. The over-all experience of this monumental occasion is perhaps most profoundly described by African-American gospel artist, Kirk Franklin: “Cincinnati, one in song; a world united, voices strong.”

Strong indeed were the voices that graced the stages of venues all around town: Christ Church Cathedral, The School for Creative and Performing Arts, the Masonic Temple, and even Warren County Correctional Institute! I am truly honored to say that I was part of this overwhelming excitement.

For the past year, I have been a member of MUSE, a Cincinnati Women’s Choir, which, for nearly 30 years, has brought together women of all ages, races, religious backgrounds, and lifestyles. With all of our differences, (including my blindness), we come together for a twofold purpose: to promote musical excellence and social change. I have sung in a number of ensembles, and I have never felt more welcomed, included, and accepted as I have in MUSE. Two women who have been most helpful are Jill Huppert and Elaine Bishop.

From my first day with MUSE, Jill has been a wonderful mentor, traveling companion, and sister. On the day we competed, it was our desire to gain the full experience of the various talents the choirs had to offer and I must say, we got the best of everything. In the morning, we attended the open competition of Musica Sacra, sacred Music, in which choirs from Israel, Indonesia, and Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, performed Gregorian chants and ancient church hymns. That afternoon, we attended the Jazz champion competition, which included the Vocal Jazz Ensemble of my alma mater, Northern Kentucky University.

I couldn’t imagine a more entertaining and fun-loving companion with whom to share my love for these styles of music. For the past several months, Elaine Bishop has graciously gone out of her way to transport me to and from various MUSE rehearsals and performances. During the activities at the arena, she sat next to me and described wonderfully the visuals on stage including English subtitles, the settings, and the costumes. She has constantly encouraged and supported me from the time we met.

I extend my deepest gratitude to Jill and Elaine as well as the many women in MUSE who have taken the time and trouble to know me as a person and as a talented colleague. MUSE’s winning a gold medal in the World Choir Games demonstrates our musical excellence, and my being fully included in MUSE is a perfect example of social change that I cherish deeply.