Frequently Asked Questions
Who we are, how we function, what are the expectations? A bit long, but covers all the bases.
- What is Fortissima Feminist Singers?
- What does "Fortissima" mean?
- What does "Feminist Singers" mean?
- How long has the chorus existed?
- Is Fortissima a lesbian chorus?
- "Is Fortissima open only to people who are biologically female and/or identify as female?"
- What organizations does Fortissima Feminist Singers belong to?
- Our Music
- What kinds of music does the chorus perform?
- How are the songs chosen?
- Does the chorus ever sing with accompaniment?
- When and where are rehearsals?
- What is the attendance policy?
- Do I have to be able to read music?
- How often and where does the chorus perform?
- Does the chorus ever travel?
- Does the chorus have a full-time sign language interpreter?
- Financial Details
- Do I have to buy an outfit?
- How much are dues?
- What's with the loose change jar?
- Are dues and other contributions tax-deductible?
- How is the chorus governed?
What is Fortissima: DC's Feminist Singers?
What does "Fortissima" mean?
Fortissima is a feminized form of the Italian musical command for 'stronger.'
What 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.
How 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!
Is 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.
"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."
Is 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.
What organizations does Fortissima Feminist Singers belong to?
The chorus is a member of the Sister Singers Network.
What 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.
How 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.
Does the chorus ever sing with accompaniment?
We are primarily an a cappella chorus, but do perform some accompanied songs.
When and where are rehearsals?
- Regular rehearsals are Tuesday nights, 7 - 8:30pm at National City Christian Church.
- In addition we encourage members to attend the Saturday rehearsals which are held at various spots early in the afternoon.
- Extra rehearsals may be scheduled a necessary to prepare for a performance.
Who 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.
What 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.
Do I have to be able to read music?
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.
Who pays for the music?
The cost of purchasing and copying music is covered by the chorus budget.
How often and where does the chorus perform?
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.
Does 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.
Does 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.
Do I have to buy an outfit?
We wear black pants/skirts with colorful shirts, from our own wardrobes. We may revisit this in 2014.
How much are dues?
$10 to $25 per calendar month, excluding July and August. Amount is based on ability to pay.
Are dues and other contributions tax-deductible?
Yes. Fortissima Feminist Singers is a registered non-profit organization.
How 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.
How 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.