Frequently Asked Questions

Who we are, how we function, what are the expectations? A bit long, but covers all the bases.

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What is Fortissima: DC's Feminist Singers?

bulletbulletWhat does "Fortissima" mean?

Fortissima is a feminized form of the Italian musical command for 'stronger.'

bulletWhat does "Feminist Singers" mean?

"Feminist Singers" means that our music centers on women's lives and experiences, and that a good portion of it is written by women. Through our music, we advocate for the equality and liberation of women and all people. We also interact in a feminist manner, respecting each other and our opinions and openly learning about other members' experiences. We listen to others' voices both through our music and in our treatment of each other.

bulletHow long has the chorus existed?

When it was founded on May 1, 1978, it was called the D.C. Area Feminist Chorus. The chorus changed its name in December 1993 to Bread and Roses Feminist Singers, and became Fortissima in October 2009. We hope this is the last name change!

bulletIs Fortissima a lesbian chorus?

Fortissima has members who are lesbians, who are straight, and who define themselves in other ways, but is open to all sopranos and altos who have a desire to make good music.

bullet"Is Fortissima open only to people who are biologically female and/or identify as female?"

"Fortissima's vision includes an artistic component and a social component. We are open to anyone who sings soprano or alto and who agrees with our feminist principles. We welcome transgendered, genderqueer, intersexed, and biologically male members who share this vision."

bulletIs Fortissima a women's chorus?

Membership is not based on gender identification, but voice part. Members must be able to sing in the standard choral soprano or alto ranges.

bulletWhat organizations does Fortissima Feminist Singers belong to?

The chorus is a member of the Sister Singers Network.

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Our Music

bulletWhat kinds of music does the chorus perform?

Most of the music is by, for, and about women and spans many genres, including protest songs, liberation songs, and folk music.  We have sung music in many languages, including English, Hebrew, Spanish, Japanese, French, Swahili, Welsh, Arabic, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, and Vietnamese. The chorus has also learned signs for several songs.

bulletHow are the songs chosen?

The songs are initially picked by the music committee, which is made up of any member who wants to participate.  All members have a say in whether or not a particular song is performed.

bulletDoes the chorus ever sing with accompaniment?

We are primarily an a cappella chorus, but do perform some accompanied songs.

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Rehearsals

bulletWhen and where are rehearsals?

bulletWho is in charge during rehearsals?

The chorus does not currently have a director. The duty of teaching and leading a particular song falls to an individual chorus member, called a Song Leader, who volunteers to take responsibility for that song.

bulletWhat is the attendance policy?

Members must attend rehearsals as often as possible; the chorus cannot properly prepare for performance without the participation and dedication of all its members.  The absolute minimum attendance requirement is 2/3rds of rehearsals in the semester leading up to a concert.  If a member will be absent, she should notify the chorus e-mail list as soon as possible or a song leader after 5:00 on the day of the rehearsal.

bulletDo I have to be able to read music?

No.

Fortissima welcomes singers of all levels of experience and knowledge. We provide audio files, or links to perfromances of the songs we are working on and we sometimes work out parts in sectional rehearsals. We schedule optional weekend rehearsals once a month to "woodshed" parts that members are struggling with as individuals or sections.  The chorus asks only that members be willing to strive toward musical excellence.

bulletWho pays for the music?

The cost of purchasing and copying music is covered by the chorus budget.

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Performing

bulletHow often and where does the chorus perform?

Anytime, anywhere.

On our regular schedule there is a short winter concert, a major concert in the spring.

The chorus is often invited to sing shorter programs and fundraisers for community groups such as "Take Back the Night," the Mautner Project, Amnesty International and the ACLU during the year.

We have performed for services in members' houses of worship as part of fundraising for the chorus. Members are not required to attend these performances.

bulletDoes the chorus ever travel?

Fortissima attended the Sister Singers International festivals in Grand Rapid (2001), 25th Anniversary festival in San Diego (2006), Chicago (2010), and Champaign/Urbana (2014). We attended 3 GALA Chorus festivals when we were a member chorus.

bulletDoes the chorus have a full-time sign language interpreter?

Not at this time, although some chorus members do sign certain songs.  We have had interpreters at some concerts in the past, and many chorus members would prefer to have an interpreter at every concert to make our performances accessible to all. We would welcome a member who would prefer to perform as an interpreter rather than a singer.

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Financial Details

bulletDo I have to buy an outfit?

We wear black pants/skirts with colorful shirts, from our own wardrobes. We may revisit this in 2014.

bulletHow much are dues?

$10 to $25 per calendar month, excluding July and August. Amount is based on ability to pay.

bulletAre dues and other contributions tax-deductible?

Yes.  Fortissima Feminist Singers is a registered non-profit organization.

bulletHow does the chorus keep in contact?

This Web site has a member information page for dates and locations of upcoming events.  We have a Twitter feed on the front page. There is also an e-mail distribution list that members can use to communicate easily with other members. A phone tree is used for members who do not have e-mail access.

bulletHow is the chorus governed?

Fortissima operates under the principle of consnsus. All chorus members have the opportunity to participate in making business decisions.  On a more practical note, we also operate on the principle that "decisions are made by those who show up." See Fortissima and Consensus.

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