Wanted: 50 women to join the choir in a new show to celebrate International Women’s Day

Women … do you have a passion for song? And would you like to take part in a stage show? Then here’s your chance to join the choir in a brand new Wren Music show that’s touring Devon in March – and no previous experience is necessary.

Rehearsals for ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ take place at the Cygnet Theatre in Exeter over four Sunday afternoons from 28 January to 25 February, with the tour taking to the road in Devon and Dorset in early March.

All women are welcome and there are no auditions for the choir – simply contact Wren to book a place in the open rehearsals.

‘Ain’t I A Woman’ is the Devon-based music charity’s third annual show to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March. This is the first time they’ve been able to tour the show, following funding from the National Lottery and Arts Council England.

Dates and venues confirmed so far are the Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, on Thursday 8 March 2018; Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, on Friday 9 March; and Plough Arts Centre, Torrington, on Saturday 10 March. Further dates are to be added for the prior weekend, while on the afternoon of 8 March, ahead of the Lyme Regis show, there will also be street performances in Exeter city centre 

Wren’s previous two ‘Her Story’ shows in 2016 and 2017 looked at local stories, with the themes of Women in History and Woman at Work. The project has to date written many new songs in the folk style, to build on and expand the representation of women in traditional folk song.

‘Ain’t I A Woman’ takes on an international theme, telling the remarkable story of Sojourner Truth, an activist and freed slave in 19th century America. In Ohio in 1851, she gave an impromptu speech challenging the status quo of relations between north and south, rich and poor, black and white, and between men and women. Her speech included the repetition of the question: “Ain’t I a woman?”

In the famous speech, she also said: “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

Wren’s professional musicians have been writing the songs for ‘Ain’t I A Woman’ since mid-December and will be completing them throughout January.

Artistic director at Wren, Marilyn Tucker, explained why they had chosen this particular story for 2018: “With this show, we’re looking at what makes you define as a woman and we’re exploring assumptions around that.

“It’s a very tightly packed schedule, deliberately so, because it’s easier for people to fit short-run projects into their busy lives,” she added. “In our previous two shows, we had lots of women who’d never done this before, so it’s a great way of getting involved in singing for the first time.  You don’t even have to read music.”

The rehearsals are led by one of Wren’s professional singers, Sarah Owen, and Marilyn says there are opportunities for women to take on a bigger role in the show if they want: “There are about 20 songs in all, with the main choir singing in five of the songs, together with Wren’s professional singers.

“For those women who want to be more involved, there is a smaller choir within the main choir that will have a few more songs to sing as well.”

To get involved in ‘Ain’t I A Woman’, contact Sarah Owen at sarah@wrenmusic.co.uk or phone Wren on 01837 53754. Suggested rehearsal donations are £10 and singers are expected to attend at least three of the rehearsals, including the first and final ones.